The Edmonton Rush entered the 2012 NLL playoffs through the smallest of openings, but their fourth-seed position in the West turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
The Rush ran the table in the opening rounds, hanging a shocking victory on the Calgary Roughnecks before demolishing the Minnesota Swarm to claim the West Division title. Both wins came on the road in hostile territory, but they were two of the most impressive victories in franchise history.
The Rush will need a similar stroke of fate in the 2013 playoffs as they drive towards a second consecutive appearance in the Champion’s Cup final. The Rush enter the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the West which puts them on the road this Saturday against the Washington Stealth. Not only do the Rush need to be road warriors again in this year’s playoffs, but they need a jolt of something special to make another successful journey.
Last season, that jolt came from veteran forward Ryan Ward who led the entire NLL with 21 points in the playoffs, and set a Rush single-game playoff record with 11 points against Calgary in the West Semi-Final. For the 2013 playoffs, Rush GM/Head Coach Derek Keenan is open to any and all who wish to step up and take on the role of prominent playoff performer.
“It would be nice to have someone step up like Ryan did, but we’ve been getting good contributions from most guys and I hope that continues and we get balanced scoring,” said Keenan.
“I don’t expect one guy to step up. Scoring by committee is more of the game that we play. It would be nice to have one guy step up and carry things offensively because you’re opportunity to win increases, but our focus is on team offense.”
Keenan might have had a little premonition at the mid-season point when he touted Jarrett Davis and Zack Greer as two players due to raise their level of play during the second half of the season. Davis has provided the Rush with timely goals and gritty play, while Greer has rebounded from a sluggish start to finish second on the team with 28 goals.
“Washington is great team. We’re looking forward to them and not thinking about anything,” said Greer. “Last year is probably a little bit in the back of our minds, but that’s in the past and we’re a different team. We have a lot of new faces this year and we’re focused on the game in hand and we can’t get away from what we’re trying to do.”
On top of Ward, Davis, Greer and top scoring threats like Corey Small and Cory Conway, the Rush also boast the NLL’s rookie sensation Mark Matthews, whose inaugural season saw him set a franchise single-season record for goals with 38, the fifth-best overall total in the league.
While Matthews’ production has slowed of late, big names often step up in big games. Two of Matthews’ most-potent offensive performances this season came against the Stealth as he notched nine points in a win at Washington, and followed that up with a six-goal effort on the Rush’s home floor at Rexall Place.
“Hopefully we can get back here and have a home playoff game, but we’re going to go on the road, we’ll go to Washington and put a hurt on them just like we did the last time,” said Matthews.