The Buffalo Bandits will be playing the post season thanks to another victory on national television.
Buffalo’s 14-9 victory over Rochester was powered by a tremendous effort by Anthony Cosmo in goal and the NLL’s newest Player of the Week, Mark Steenhuis.
Steenhuis led all players with eight points (4+4) as he helped clinch a playoff spot for the Bandits. The former Transition Player of the Year (2008) has improved his offensive output in recent weeks and has put him on pace for a strong showing offensively this season. This is of particular importance considering the regression he had over the past two years.
The Bandits still have a chance to improve their standing in the NLL’s East Division as the playoffs draw near, but they will be playing on the road in the first round no matter what. Saturday’s game in Washington will be nothing more than a warmup for next week’s first round playoff game.
In addition to Steenhuis’ big effort, the Bandits defense locked down and stifled the usually high-octant Knighthawks offense last Saturday. Anthony Cosmo was superb in goal and enjoyed an evening of long, outside shots and only a handful of high-quality chances. He was capable of turning aside most of the Knighthawks’ best chances.
Cosmo was part of a larger defensive effort that saw the Bandits hold the Rochester to only two goals in the first half and many long scoreless stretches. That includes a drought of 16 minutes without a goal. From 11:54 of the second quarter until 12:45 of the third quarter and 11:26 of the third to 8:46 of the fourth quarter were the two longest droughts for Rochester. Buffalo made the Knighthawks pay, piecing together a number of lengthy runs, something they have struggled with this season.
The only missing puzzle piece on Saturday was John Tavares. For the first time in pretty much forever, Tavares did not factor in the goal scoring for the Bandits and only registered two assists. A good natured Darris Kilgour brushed off his stats, saying that he simply needs to shoot more.
I told him that whoever you’re passing to is going to be 1,500 points behind you, so shoot the ball.
The Bandits didn’t necessarily need Tavares against Rochester. Steenhuis picked up the slack, as did Luke Wiles (3+1) and Mat Giles (2+4). Tracey Kelusky and Chad Culp also turned in multiple point efforts for Buffalo.
One thing I have been concerned about is Buffalo’s ability to adapt once Tavares departs. Steenhuis was once viewed as the heir apparent, before a few lackluster years. Efforts like Saturday remind you of the player that put up 17 points in one game and instills confidence in the future. I think that they’re in good hands with Wiles and that Steenhuis’ skillset is more than adequate to be a major player for the Bandits when Tavares eventually moves on.
With the playoffs looming, it is time for the Bandits to finally play consistent lacrosse. It appears as if Cosmo has settled in and is prepared for a playoff run. I would say the offense and defense have found their groove as well, but it has been a tumultuous year. The Bandits have been better in recent weeks and it is imperative for them to stay in this groove over the next four weeks as they strive for a title.