Preview the NLL Power Rankings after Week 15 by Brian Shanahan on IL Indoor below as the National Lacrosse League playoff race stays hot with seven games on the Week 16 schedule and just three weekends remaining in the regular season before the Champion’s Cup Playoffs.
“Week 15 of the National Lacrosse League had 5 games and while the upset of the week was Georgia’s 17-10 win over the Colorado Mammoth, the biggest winner of the weekend was the New England Black Wolves,” Shanahan writes.
Two weeks ago, the Wolves had a huge weekend as they swept the Rochester Knighthawks in a home and home series. This weekend was just as impressive for New England. On Friday, the Black Wolves ralled from a 6-1 first-quarter deficit to defeat the defending champion Saskatchewan Rush 14-13 and less than 24 hours later they were clearly the better team as they handed the Toronto Rock a 14-10 loss at the ACC.
In other games, the Buffalo Bandits got 5 goals (no assists) from Dhane Smith as they defeated the Rochester Knighthawks 14-12 in a playoff type battle. The 5 points gave Smith 116 points in his first 14 games of the season.
Although it’s not an official NLL record, the 116 points in 14 games is a benchmark for the most elite of superstars in NLL history. John Tavares held the record of 115 points in 14 games for 11 years until John Grant upped it 1 point in 2012. Even in his 130-point record breaking year last season, Shawn Evans had only 105 points after 14 games.
And speaking of “the elite of NLL superstars,” Smith only needs 3 goals to tie Gary Gait for the second most productive goal scoring season in NLL history. Gait scored 61 goals in the 16 game-season of 2003 and Smith is now up to 58.
This brings up a point about the MVP of the 2016 season. In Ted Jenner’s latest article he said that “it’s a foregone conclusion that Smith will take home the MVP.” On Saturday, I had a discussion with ILIndoor’s Stephen Stamp and he said he disagreed with Teddy. Stamp suggested that there is still an argument for giving Shawn Evans the award. I agree with Stamp that the arrival of Evans is the reason that Black Wolves are a playoff team contending for first place in the East. Evans is on pace to surpass last season’s record of 130 points.
But I also believe that although MVP stands for “Most Valuable Player,” it’s a misnomer and the award is always given to the league’s Most Outstanding Player. We hear a similar argument in the NHL every season and if MVP is truly for the “player most Valuable player to his team” then Montreal goaltender Carey Price will win it again this year. There is no question that Dhane Smith is the most outstanding NLL player this season and he will win the MOP – oops MVP.
In other games this weekend, the Calgary Roughnecks beat the Vancouver Stealth 16-12. There are a couple of huge changes to the Power Rankings. Check it out.
1) Buffalo Bandits (10-4) (+1): We have a new leader! The Buffalo Bandits won their sixth straight by defeating their New York rival Rochester Knighthawks 14-12 in front of over 17,000 fans. The Bandits needed by a late goal by Kevin Brownell after the Knighthawks scored 4 straight fourthquarter goals to tie the score at 12. Next week the Bandits play a home and home with the Toronto Rock. After that they play the Knighthawks one more time before meeting the New England Black Wolves to close out the season. Who would have thought that last game against New England could be a battle for first place?
2) Colorado Mammoth (10-4) (-1): I have to admit that I started my power rankings Sunday morning with the assumption that Colorado was going to defeat the Georgia Swarm in their afternoon game. Playing their second game without Jeremy Noble (suspension) and John Grant Junior (upper body injury), the Swarm took over the game in the second quarter and from there it was never close as the Mammoth lost their fourth game of the season by a score of 17-10. Luckily for the Mammoth, the Saskatchewan Rush also lost this weekend so both teams are 10-4 and first place will likely be determined in next weekend’s home and home battle with the Rush.
3) New England Black Wolves (9-5) (-1): The Black Wolves won both their games this weekend, defeating the Saskatchewan Rush 14-13 and the Toronto Rock 14-10. As I said in my intro, Shawn Evans is the main reason this team has turned into a contender. There is no way that his competitive fire can’t rub off on his teammates and it sure helps when you have a game breaker like Evans jumping on the floor when a tight game is on the line. (He scored the winner the winner against Saskatchewan). And speaking of NLL awards, is there any doubt that Glen Clark and his coaching staff (Jim Veltman and Tracy Kelesky) are going to win the Coach of the year award? You also have to consider the coaching triumvirate in Colorado, but traditionally the coach of the year award goes to the team with the greatest improvement and that’s an easy one. The Wolves play Georgia in each of the next 2 weekends, including Friday in Georgia, before the final weekend when they play Buffalo and Rochester.
5) Calgary Roughnecks (7-9): Calgary put an end to its two game losing streak by defeating the Vancouver Stealth 16-12. Curtis Dickson had 4 goals and 2 assists while Dane Dobbie had 3 and 2. The only way that Calgary can lose its hold of third place is if Vancouver wins its last 4 and Calgary loses its last 2 games. Calgary can make it official if it defeats the Stealth in Vancouver next Saturday.
7) Georgia Swarm (5-9): Georgia kept its playoff hopes alive with a very impressive 17-10 victory over the Colorado Mammoth on Sunday. The Swarm got multiple-goal games from six players and both Shayne Jackson (2 goals , 5 assists) and rookie Randy Staats (3 and 4) had seven-point games. Next weekend will be the most important of the season for the Swarm as they host New England on Friday and then travel to Rochester on Saturday. A pair of wins would vault Georgia into a playoff spot and a win against Rochester would give Georgia the tiebreaker in their season series.