This is not one of those games to let slip through the cracks or rest your starters and wait for the first playoff game. The Bandits are now rested and ready to start this “drive for five” campaign.
“I would like to finish the regular season strong, moving into the playoffs. The guys understand what they need to do,” said Bandits head coach John Tavares.
“All those offensive players, they need each other to be successful. We do not rely on one individual on the team. When you use your teammates, and if the guys just let the game come to them, I think we will have more success.”
There’s a lot at stake, of the importance of being there, and let’s get this one for Dhane, 15 wins, the team, and…
The fans of Banditland.
The club has led in total league attendance for the umpteenth time in Bandits history. And this year is no different. Going into Saturday night’s home game against Toronto, the club leads the average attendance with a marker of 9,476. By game’s end and the largest crowd of the season projected, the Bandits will take the 2022 attendance crown by a sizeable margin.
The 2021-22 season attendance record will have an asterisk, as strict Covid protocols played a significant role. This included limited seating, postponements, some played away from home arenas, and a handful of games played in front of no fans like Toronto.
Every club had its mandates, including Buffalo for part of the season. But for those of Banditland to stick with it through the trialing times, showing their support, it’s an undeniable testament to their devotion.
Thank you, Banditland. Let’s get everybody back up on the wagon for what figures to be an exciting playoff ride ahead.
The 2021-2022 Bandit team is the most talented in franchise history. From top to bottom, east to west, north to south, any way you want to break it down: Goaltending, defense, forwards, special teams, transition, goals for/goals against, and shooting percentage. The numbers speak volumes, but it all comes down to the group’s chemistry; it’s a perfect mix.
“It’s just, ‘Be ourselves.’ That is the message: We have a good team, and we’ve done a lot of good things this year. Let’s not be overconfident, remain humble, let’s do what it takes to win,” noted Tavares.
It’s all about the backend when you get to this time of year, starting with goaltending on out.
“It’s how we want to play, which is tough [and] in your face. We are looking to get better, head in the right direction, and improve heading into playoffs,” said Bandits defenseman Bryce Sweeting, second in the league with 20 blocked shots.
“The biggest thing on defense is trust. If you don’t trust your partner out there, it definitely breaks down on the defensive end. Knowing your buddy is going to make the right play makes all the difference.”
While the 1993 Bandits posted a perfect 8-0 record, and went on to win their second league title, this year’s club has a chance to eclipse the 14-win season for the first time in the modern-day era of 18-game schedules. The club claimed their 10th divisional title in 2018-19 with a 14-4 record. Now, with the 11th divisional/conference title earned, it’s only fitting 15 wins would mark what could potentially be a season to remember.
The Great Dhane
Dhane Smith’s pursuit of establishing a new NLL regular-season scoring record is on the line.
With 41 goals and a new league regular-season record of 94 assists, The Great Dhane is only three away from breaking his record of 137 points set in 2016. Averaging around eight points per game, Smith has recorded three double-digit point games of 11, 12, and 12.
In the last five games, the ninth-year Bandit has 44 points. He also leads the league with 32 power-play points, and he is shooting 25 percent on shots from the floor. In addition, Smith has 86 loose balls and 10 caused turnovers to his credit. He is an MVP in waiting; he is the best player in the game today.
Won’t have to wait for more
Sure, there are several more reasons the game Saturday night inside KeyBank Center against the Toronto Rock is so important. I’m sure you can think of more. A win would be great, and that feeling going out the door after is so, so good. It just wants to make you get back for more on May 7th.
“Let’s just be ready. We need to do collectively as a team, do everything right, and keep getting better each night. Let’s not be satisfied with clinching the division and home playoffs; that’s the easy way. Let go out there and earn it,” said Sweeting.
Coverage of the Bandits/Rock game will be on ESPN+ and TSN. The broadcast time is set for 7:30 PM. Steve Bermel joins me in the booth, and Dave Buchanan will add his perspective and timely interviews between the benches.
Radio coverage will be on WGR 550. The pregame show will start at 7 PM and feature comments from both coach Tavares and coach Sawyer, and we will follow up with the player’s perspective as well.