As the National Lacrosse League enters its seventh week of play in the 2014 season, the separation between the strongest and the weakest teams is becoming more and more apparent.
One of the most pleasant surprises so far has been the performance of the Edmonton Rush, who enter the weekend as the only undefeated team in the NLL, at 5-0.
The Rush are in the midst of their most successful period in their nine-year franchise history.
In 2012, after a lacklustre regular season, the Rush went on a tear in the playoffs, going all the way to the Champion's Cup, which they lost to the Rochester Knighthawks. Last year, they had a much-improved regular season, finishing with a 9-7 record and in a three-way tie for first place in the West Division. Their playoff run got stopped in the first round, however, losing 12-11 to the Washington Stealth.
This year, Edmonton is off to their best start in franchise history and seem to be in cruise control in spite of a number of question marks prior to the season. The team lost Corey Small to an ACL injury prior to the season and Ryan Ward to free agency, leaving the team without two of their top three scorers from the 2013 season.
They also had their team captain, Jimmy Quinlan, announce his retirement during the offseason.
In their absence, the Rush have had a number of players step up. Sophomore Mark Matthews has 28 points so far, including a team-best 12 goals. Fellow sophomore Curtis Knight also has 12 goals and is tied with Jarrett Davis for second on the team in overall scoring with 21 points.
Chris Corbeil has been a monster on defense, scooping 42 loose balls, while goaltender Aaron Bold is enjoying an excellent season, with an 8.19 goals-against average. Backup goalie Brodie MacDonald has looked even better in limited action, with a minuscule 5.37 goals against.
This weekend the Rush face another tough test when they travel to Philadelphia to face the 3-3 Wings. Philly has earned two wins in a row by huge margins, beating the Minnesota Swarm by seven two weekends ago and the Vancouver Stealth by six last weekend.
With the announcement that the Wings have signed Brandon Miller back to the franchise, they've solidified their goaltending situation, giving them an experienced veteran to support No. 1 goalie Evan Kirk (10.85 GAA).
The Rush will have one advantage in the game, in that the Wings will be coming off a game Friday night in Toronto against the Rock, so they might be feeling some fatigue. That should give them an advantage, especially later in the game when having fresh legs might become a bigger factor.
All things considered, it looks like Edmonton has the upper hand in this game, which is one of five on the NLL schedule for the weekend. If the Rush can win it, they'll have a stranglehold on the West Division, just a third of the way through the season.
Catch all of the weekend's action live on The Lacrosse Network's You Tube channel.
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