NLL Notebook: Breaking Down the Numbers
by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com
FRANCIS SUSPENSION REDUCED BY ONE GAME
Brandon Francis will be available to the Buffalo Bandits should they make it to the NLL’s championship game the May 13-15 weekend.
The league announced Friday that arbitrator Ramona Gallagher ruled after hearing an appeal of the four-game suspension handed Francis for his part in a brawl at the Boston bench during an April 16 loss to the Blazers at HSBC Arena that the suspension has been reduced to three games.
Since the Bandits did not dress Francis for their regular-season closer last weekend against Rochester, he’ll be eligible to return to the lineup after sitting out two more games beginning with the East Division semifinal at home Saturday against Boston.
BENESCH AT HIS BEST AGAINST STEALTH
Ryan Benesch is the first Minnesota player to win the NLL scoring title and a lot of his success has been achieved against the team the Swarm will face in a West Division semifinal Saturday.
The fifth-year pro finished the regular season with 46 goals and 49 assists for 95 points, and he scored 13 of his goals against the Washington Stealth. He was named player of the month for April by the NLL on Wednesday.
Washington’s Lewis Ratcliff was second in the scoring race with (41-51) 92 points, Rhys Duch of the Stealth (42-48) and Dan Dawson of the Boston Blazers (31-29) tied for third with 90 each, and John Grant Jr. of the Colorado Mammoth, who was one of the hottest shooters during the last month, was fifth with (36-47) 83.
WASHINGTON IS HIGHEST-SCORING TEAM
The Stealth poured in a league-high 203 goals this season.
How the other teams stacked up on offense: 2. Calgary, 198; 3. Minnesota and Toronto, 187 each; 5. Rochester, 176; 6. Edmonton, 175; 7. Buffalo, 169; 8. Boston, 166; 9. Colorado, 151; 10. Philadelphia, 143.
EXPERIENCE FACTOR MULTIPLIED
Minnesota coach Mike Lines is well aware of the need to keep the Stealth offense from stealing the show and having an added veteran presence in his lineup this year fills him with optimism going into the West Division semifinal showdown in St. Paul on Saturday.
"I think the biggest difference between last year’s team and this one is the experience we have,’’ says Lines. "We picked up Mat Giles, who’s been there and won it before, and a guy like Rory Smith has been to the playoffs and in the finals. We’ve got a lot more mature team and more playoff-ready team this season."
VINC FINISHES WITH BEST SAVE PERCENTAGE
Matt Vinc of the Rochester Knighthawks had a league-best .794 save percentage when the regular season ended last Saturday, which could translate into a second straight selection as goaltender of the year.
The rest: 2. Bob Watson, Toronto, .788; 3. Mike Thompson, Buffalo, .785; 4. Chris Levis, Colorado, .784; 5. Tyler Richards, Washington, .781; 6. Brandon Miller, Philadelphia, .774; 7. Nick Patterson, Minnesota, .768; 8. Anthony Cosmo, Boston, .767; 9. Mike Poulin, Calgary, .765; 10. Matt Roik, Washington, .753; 11. Matt Disher, Edmonton, .750. (Minimum 300 minutes played)
BOSTON HAS BEST TEAM DEFENSE
The Blazers allowed a league-low 155 goals against.
How the other teams stacked up on defense: 2. Rochester and Buffalo, 159 each; 4. Toronto, 168; 5. Colorado, 172; 6. Philadelphia, 179; 7. Minnesota, 180; 8. Calgary, 181; 9. Washington, 198; 10. Edmonton, 204.
MERRILL GETS MOST LOOSE BALLS
Edmonton’s Brodie Merrill gathered in a league-high 187 loose balls.
Twelve players had in excess of 100: 2. Geoff Snider, Calgary, 171; 3. Paul Rabil, Washington, 153; 4. Kyle Rubisch, Boston, 143; 5. Chris Corbeil, Buffalo, 121; 6. Ryan Hotaling, Boston, 114; 7. Andrew Suitor, Minnesot, 108; 8. Tom Montour, Buffalo, 104; 9. Mike Grimes, Washington, 103; 10. Bob Snider, Washington, 102; 11. Ilija Gajic, Colorado, and Pat McCready, Rochester, 101 each.
Merrill was also first in forced turnovers with 30.
RATCLIFF MOST GENTLEMANLY PLAYER
Lewis Ratcliff came within 12 seconds of completing an unblemished season in terms of penalty minutes served.
A slashing minor assessed at 14:48 of the fourth quarter in Washington’s 16th and final regular-season game April 16 sent Ratcliff to a penalty box for the only time.
One other player among the top 10 scorers, Shawn Williams of the Knighthawks, had only two minutes in penalties this season.
Ratcliff was assessed only two minors last season and in 10 years has only 60 penalty minutes on his regular-season record.
DICKSON TOPS ROOKIES WITH 33 GOALS
Calgary’s Curtis Dickson scored a rookie-best 33 goals.
Rochester’s Cody Jamieson scored 28 and led in total points with 53 to Dickson’s 52.
The two will be leading candidates for rookie of the year, as will Boston defenceman Kyle Rubisch.
WILLIAMS REACHED 1,000-POINT PLATEAU
With his 76 points during the regular season, Rochester captain Shawn Williams now has 1,025 regular-season and playoff points.
MVP DEBATE HEATS UP
Talk about league MVP candidates two months ago centred around Toronto Rock goaltender Bob Watson, with Calgary transition ace Jeff Shattler drawing attention, too. A Buffalo surge then put goalie Mike Thompson’s name in the mix.
The last month?
Matt Vinc comes on strong in the Rochester crease to lift the Knighthawks to five wins in their last six games, and Minnesota’s Ryan Benesch has a torrid finish to win the scoring title and get selected player of the month.
Apply some reasoning: Toronto lost its last three, Buffalo was bombed in its last two and Minnesota was only 8-8, which leaves us with Shattler of the 11-5 Roughnecks and Vinc of the 10-6 Knighthawks.
Flip a coin.
COACH OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES
The winner has to come from one of the four teams that finished above .500: Calgary, 11-5, and Buffalo, Toronto and Rochester, all 10-6.
Dave Pym of the Roughnecks watched stars Josh Sanderson, Tracey Kelusky and Jeff Moleski traded away as Brad Banister dumped salary before the season began and then heard his owner-GM announce the team might not be able to pay its bills through 16 games which meant it might fold, but the ‘Necks were No. 1 anyway.
Buffalo coach Darris Kilgour watched his Bandits get bombed in their last two to kiss away a shot at first overall and Toronto coach Troy Cordingley saw his Rock fall flat in its last three, while Rochester coach Mike Hasen guided his Knighthawks to five wins in their last six.
Pym or Hasen, it says here.
MOST ACCURATE SHOOTER
Minnesota’s Tyler Hass had the best shooting percentage, 61.5 per cent, after scoring eight goals on 13 shots. Washington’s Mike Grimes was second with 11 goals on 22 shots.
GRANT GETS OFF MOST SHOTS
Colorado’s John Grant Jr. took the most shots, 271, with Washington’s Lewis Ratcliff next with 230 and Calgary’s Dane Dobbie third with 213.
SNIDERS BEST AT FACEOFFS
Geoff Snider of the Roughnecks won 70 per cent of the faceoffs he took, winning a league-best 235. Kid brother Bob Snider of the Stealth won 226 with a 71 per cent success rate.
GEOFF SNIDER MOST PENALIZED
Geoff Snider was the most penalized player in the NLL with 74 minutes assessed. Buffalo’s Brandon Francis was next with 70 and Colorado’s Mac Allen followed with 55.
TAKE A BOW BANDITS FANS
Buffalo led in average attendance at 17,096 at HSBC Arena.
The others: Colorado 15,866; Toronto 10,985; Calgary 10,384; Boston 8,712; Philadelphia 8,662; Minnesota 8,288; Edmonton 7,152; Rochester 5,949; Washington 4,132.
McBRIDE RETURNS TO CALGARY LINEUP
Roughnecks captain Andrew McBride will be back in the lineup for the West Division semifinal against the visiting Colorado Mammoth on Saturday after missing three games since suffering a leg injury during a 15-12 home win over Minnesota on April 1.
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