Let’s get this out of the way immediately: Mike Poulin was fantastic between the pipes in 2017. His goaltending abilities were the biggest piece the Swarm added to its offensively potent bench, and between that and his great personality and veteran leadership, it’s no wonder that the Swarm won an NLL World Championship in the first year of his three-year contract.
In 2017-18, Poulin was arguably even better.
“Poulie stepped up his game,” assistant coach Sean Ferris said. “He played almost all our minutes for us, and he was good for us.”
He played in every game this past season, logging a career-high 1042:11 min. Playing that much means setting new markers in GA (203) and saves (692). Granted, that’s 68 SOG more than in 2017, but Poulin played nearly two full games more time-wise. 68 SOG over a two-game span means your defense is dominating your opponent.
When you look at the entire season, Poulin really had only two rough games. They came in the same weekend, and the Swarm was not playing up to its usual standards on either side of the floor, so the blame can’t be laid all at one person’s feet.
But even if you were to misguidedly place the blame at Poulin’s feet, it’d be impossible to ignore how he bounced back from heartbreaking losses to deliver another strong performance in front of the net. That’s that veteran mindset you want every player to have or to pick up.
The Swarm completely trusts Poulin in front of the goal, and that frees other players up to play calmer and smarter. Vice versa, it gives Poulin the confidence needed to stop the best the NLL has to offer.
“That’s another guy that’s not a captain or assistant, but he’s an informal leader. We have our leadership group, Shayne Jackson, Noble, and MacIntosh; then you’ve got Poulin, Lyle Thompson. Those guys are informal leaders.”
Goaltenders tend to get better with age. If Poulin’s playing at the level he’s been at, getting slightly better with each game, then the final year of his contract next season should be fun for the Swarm.
Best Game of the Season:
The most heartbreaking Swarm loss came on March 2 when Stephen Keogh made a shot with four seconds left in the game. The shot trickled under Poulin and had just enough momentum to cross the line despite Poulin’s efforts. It broke the tie, gave the visiting Colorado Mammoth the win, and put the Swarm two games away from .500 again.
Fortunately, the Swarm had a game the next night against the Toronto Rock and had to have a short memory to get back into the win column.
Poulin did just that. After the Brett Hickey goal in the second quarter, Georgia’s defense coalesced in front of Poulin, and he made phenomenal save after phenomenal save. The Swarm found itself down two men at one point in the game due to penalties and still managed to kill both penalties. It took 32:30 min. for Toronto to finally score again, but it was too little way too late. Georgia had retaken the lead during that Rock drought and was shutting down Toronto’s O with ease for the remainder of the game.
“Last night was tough, especially for me,” Poulin said after the victory against Toronto. “In the airport talking with Coach Eddie, we just kind of shook it off, and our comment was nothing feels better than winning in Toronto. That’s where our focus was. If I kept thinking about last night, it wouldn’t be fair to anybody else, so we had to get over it real quick.”
That’s the calm and unselfishness you want from your veteran netminder.
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