- ReLaxing Luke
Saskatchewan Rush Season Preview
The NLL season starts tonight. While most teams start next week, the Saskatchewan Rush open their season tonight in Denver. Before opening faceoff, it’s time for a season preview of Saskatchewan’s premier professional team.
The Rush entered 2018 with high expectations. Most expected, at a minimum, an appearance in the NLL championship series. At 11-7, the Rush finished first in the west. Everything was set up for another playoff run. Colorado had other plans. In a major upset, 6-12 Colorado flew up to Saskatoon and stunned Saskatchewan 11-10. Saskatchewan’s dreams were dashed. That said, the Rush can easily return to championship form this season. The pieces are in place.
Offensively, only Calgary rivals Saskatchewan’s offensive output. The Rush have Mark Matthews (41 goals, 64 assists last season), Ben McIntosh (41 goals, 36 assists last season), and Jeff Shatler (34 goals, 39 assists last season). Matthews, my favorite player, is a force to be reckoned with. I have yet to see a defenseman who matches up with him. Look for Matthews to score 50+ this season.
Saskatchewan shines in the transition game. Their transition unit is the NLL’s best. It’s what makes them so dangerous. The Rush return Travis Cornwell (6 assists, 45 loose balls last season) and Mike Messenger (9 goals, 6 assists, 115 loose balls last season). Jeremy Thompson (3 goals, 7 assists, 208 loose balls, 263-464 F/O last season), the do-it-all faceoff specialist, will provide Saskatchewan with extra possessions. Thompson is the best faceoff specialist in the western division, and gives Saskatchewan an extra edge.
My only concern with Saskatchewan is the defense. The Rush return Matt Hossack (3 goals, 14 assists, 93 loose balls last season) and Kyle Rubisch (2 goals, 6 assists, 144 loose balls last season); however, Nik Bilic (5 assists, 45 loose balls last season) is gone. The other defensemen on the roster, aren’t as recognizable (to me). An unknown, younger player must step up to provide the Rush help on the back end.
Goaltenders Evan Kirk and Adam Shute will allow a younger defense to get their footing. Both split games and performed admirably. I feel confident with either in net.
Aside from Calgary, Saskatchewan has the most complete roster. The Rush start their year at Colorado, against New England, at New York, and at San Diego. Three road games is tough, but I expect Saskatchewan to blow through their first three opponents. Expect Saskatchewan to avenge their playoff loss to Colorado in brutal fashion. San Diego will be tough, but Saskatchewan should win a close one. I fully expect Saskatchewan to be 8-0 before hosting Toronto on February 29th. The west will come down to Saskatchewan and Calgary. Whoever wins the three-game series will clinch the division. Rush fans should be excited for a special season. I don’t see anyone in the east challenging Saskatchewan. A title or semi-finals appearance should be the expectation.
Do you agree with my Rush takeaways? Disagree? Are you a Rush fan looking to talk Saskatchewan lacrosse? Whatever your thoughts, voice them by connecting with me on Twitter or Instagram. You can also comment directly onto this article by subscribing. By subscribing, you’ll be notified whenever I publish a new article. I apologize for the short article; I was in a RUSH writing this. I’m about to drive to Denver to cheer on my Saskatchewan Rush. Sadly, Rush Hulk and company won’t be there. I’ll be sure to make Rush nation proud and cheer hard. I’m already bringing new Rush fans to opening night.
Thank you for reading and good luck to the Saskatchewan Rush!