The Saskatchewan Rush created offense in a variety of ways last weekend. Their unsettled offense accounted for the majority of goals: five goals in transition, three goals on the powerplay, two goals in six-on-five situations and a putback. When the dust settled and the Rush had to manufacture five-on-five offense, their best looks came from off-ball screens.
It’s an admittedly small sample size, but the Rush shot 3-for-7 (42.9%) behind off-ball screens in their season opener; the rest of the NLL shot 5-for-29 (17.2%) in those situations. That’s a stat to monitor as the season unfolds. Can the Rush keep shooting at that rate? With Mark Matthews firing laser passes like this across the floor, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they did.
That screen by Matthew Dinsdale absolutely clobbered the defender – Toronto’s only chance at defending that was hoping Matthews and Ben McIntosh failed to connect on the pass. Most of the Rush’s off-ball screens were more subtle. This pick from Robert Church – again, for McIntosh – causes miscommunication between the Rock defenders. Watch McIntosh’s man recognize the screen and signal for a switch. Church’s defender is just a bit late on the switch, leaving McIntosh with time and room to shoot.
Even the less physical picks produced offense by distracting defenders. As Church screens for Dinsdale here, Dinsdale’s defender turns his head once he feels the screen, which opens up a passing lane. Church’s defender cannot get out on Dinsdale’s hands in time, and he hitches before moving toward the middle of the floor.
The Rush might not be getting to the highest percentage shooting areas with these picks, but they’re moving the goalie and forcing defenders to keep their heads on a swivel. When your weak-side offense is this active, help defenders will hesitate to flood the ball-side.
McIntosh (3-for-5 shooting off-the-catch), Church (2-for-7) and Dinsdale (1-for-5) all finished well from the right side. With Matthews, Ryan Keenan and Jeff Shattler dominating the ball carrying duties on the left side, these righties will have to continue to create such quality looks for each other via off-ball screens.