The Edmonton Rush finished the 2014 regular season with the best record in the NLL, going 16-2 and flirting with a perfect record until the dying weeks of the schedule. Along the way they set the league record for most consecutive wins (14), arguably making this the single finest season in league history.
But can they win their first Champion's Cup in the next few weeks?
The stats seem to indicate that they will.
Aside from owning the NLL's best record and gaining home-field advantage all the way through the playoffs as a result, the Rush have dominated the league in a number of other ways as well.
They were a whopping plus-63 on the season, scoring the second-most goals in the league (220) while giving up the fewest (157). They also didn't lose a season series to any team this year, with only two of their eight opponents finding a way to beat them—the Colorado Mammoth handed them their first loss in their 15th game while the Calgary Roughnecks beat them in overtime in their second-to-last game.
Goaltender Aaron Bold was tops in the league in wins (15) and goals-against average (8.73). Two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year Kyle Rubisch led the league in forced turnovers with a record 61, 25 more than the next best player on this year's list (Tyler Garrison of the Vancouver Stealth had 36).
Three Rush players were in the NLL's top eight in loose balls: Jeremy Thompson (165), Rubisch (156) and Chris Corbeil (137). No other team had more than one player in the top eight in that category.
Their first opponents this postseason will be the Roughnecks, who beat the Mammoth 16-15 in overtime last weekend in the West Division Semifinal. Edmonton beat Calgary three times in four games this year, losing the last one but running away with three blowout wins in the first three.
Although the Roughnecks are riding high on a three-game winning streak and likely gained a bunch of confidence when they finally solved the Rush late in the season, Edmonton hasn't lost two games in a row yet this year and don't seem likely to do so now.
Add in the possible loss of Calgary's faceoff specialist Geoff Snider last week against the Mammoth—and the fact that the Roughnecks have never beaten the Rush in a playoff game—and the Roughnecks look to have a big hill to climb to remain competitive with the Rush in their upcoming series.
Assuming the Rush make it to the Champion's Cup series, they will face either the Rochester Knighthawks or the Buffalo Bandits. They beat the Knighthawks twice during the regular season and destroyed the Bandits by a 14-5 score in their only meeting back in March.
Again, all signs point to Edmonton having the distinct advantage should they get past Calgary.
Head coach Derek Keenan has this team playing outstanding lacrosse this year. Their defense is possibly the best ever assembled in NLL history, their offense has a bunch of weapons that bring balanced, efficient scoring to the table and their transition game is fast and deadly.
Put it all together, and it's looking like this franchise is in great shape to earn its first-ever championship.
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