First place, it’s the place to be.
The Georgia Swarm may be tied for first in the East Division with Buffalo and Rochester after Sunday’s series sweep against Toronto, but being in first in the East doesn’t bring too much comfort since last place Toronto and New England are only a game back. If Georgia wants to widen the distance between itself and the bottom, it has to continue winning. And arguably its toughest game left in the 2017-18 season is its rematch against the Saskatchewan Rush in Saskatoon.
The Rush is the top dog in the NLL, featuring the best record, offense, and defense. Its three losses came against East Division opponents, however, two of those courtesy of Rochester. Georgia wants to join that exclusive club while exacting some vengeance against a Sask team that won at The Hive 13-9 when the two teams last met in Jan. But it’s been a long time since that game, so expecting the exact same result is short-sighted.
Saturday’s game will be huge and filled with awesome moments, but arguably the most awesome moment has already happened before the players even stepped onto the floor of SaskTel Centre. Sask and Georgia have partnered up and will wear…
Special Humboldt Broncos Jerseys
A week ago, a tractor trailer collided with a bus carrying the Jr. A hockey team, the Humboldt Broncos. The Broncos play in the Saskatchewan province of Canada and were traveling to a playoff game against the Nipawin Hawks. Unfortunately, travesty prevented them from making it to the game, and 16 people died while another 13 were injured.
If you’re able to donate to help support the families and victims of the wreck, please do so by visiting the GoFundMe page here.
Sports have a powerful way of connecting communities in ways you cannot know until some force brings you together. Humboldt has resonated across the continent because families and players remember being in similar situations, those bus rides with the team.
I will never forget my Jr. A lacrosse bus trips. Some of the best memories I have as an athlete. The news from Humboldt hits close to home and is truly tragic. My prayers are with the players, families and community. #PrayForHumbolt @HumboldtBroncos
— Jordan MacIntosh (@jmacintosh24) April 7, 2018
Bus trips are some of the most fun for any young athlete. Long trips having fun and building memories with your brothers. Completely heartbroken for all that have been effected by this tragedy.#prayforhumboldt @HumboldtBroncos 🙏
— shayne jackson (@ShayneJackson32) April 7, 2018
— Dan Ladouceur (@Laddy6) April 7, 2018
Because of this tragic incident, the Swarm and Rush are partnering together on behalf of the NLL to run a jersey auction for the special Humboldt Broncos jerseys. The Broncos logo will be on the front of the jerseys. The Rush will have “Humboldt” on the back of its jerseys in the place of player names, and the Swarm will have “Broncos” in its name plates.
Fans can bid on these jerseys at the NLL’s EBAY auction site here. The auction will run from April 14 to April 21, ending at 6 p.m. ET. All proceeds will be donated to the community of Humboldt. Even if you don’t win a jersey, consider donating to the GoFundMe page through the above hyperlink.
The Last Seven Games
It should come as no surprise that the Rush is the best team in the NLL this season. The Rush has stormed to a 12-3 record and has the best offense and defense in the league.
But it has an interesting split between its first eight games and its last seven, and the same can be said for the Swarm during those spans:
|First 8 Games||Last 7 Games|
The Rush got off to a fiery start. The lowest amount of goals it scored in the first five games was 13 against Georgia. Before that, it put up 17 in Toronto and 24 against New England. After that, another 17, this time against Colorado. Over the last seven games, the Rush offense has slowed down a significant amount. 12.86 GF/GAME is still good, but it is a far cry from the 15.38 GF/GAME it was putting up before. What’s crazy is the defense has gotten better, dropping from an already great 11 GA/GAME to 10.29 GA/GAME.
It isn’t the only team making strides. As we all know, the defending champs didn’t start off on the best foot this season, which is why its GF/GAME for the first eight games of the season is only 11.88. But with Jordan Hall returning and Lyle Thompson heating up the Swarm O, Georgia has posted a 12.57 GF/GAME over the last seven matches. The defense has also drastically improved, dropping its 13.75 GA/GAME down to 10.75.
End of the day, these are not the same teams that met on January 6. Both teams have gone 5-2 in the last seven games. Sask may be the grand poobah this season, but Georgia can give it a run for its money on Saturday. But for that to happen, the Swarm D is going to have to continue to play to the high standards it has set for itself, and the offense is going to have to…
Spread the Ball Around
Georgia downed Buffalo 14-10 three weeks ago. After that, it handled New England with a 17-12 rout. Finally, the Swarm swept Toronto with an 11-10 last-second win. Lyle scored five goals against Buffalo, three against New England, and five more against Toronto.
What’s more telling, though, it how many other players scored in those games. Against the Bandits, seven different Swarm players recorded a goal. Eight other Georgia players stung the Black Wolves. This past weekend against the Rock, only five other players scored. That game was also the smallest margin of victory in the past trio of games.
It’s nice to have a player that can put up five goals in a game. But Georgia’s offense has always been at its best when it showcases its diversity. The more the merrier, right? Pass the ball around and strike when the moment is right, otherwise known as…
The Fourth Quarter
It’s the only quarter Sask has a negative goal differential in. Look:
|TEAM SCORING BY QUARTER|
The Rush like to come out firing, evidenced by that insane +29 goal differential in the first quarter. It “slows down” a little in the second (+21) and a little more in the third (+11), but that fourth and final quarter has a -8 goal differential for the toons.
“But the game will be in SaskTel Centre. How does Sask do at home?” I’m glad you asked, imaginary person, and went ahead and did the research. The Rush has played in seven home games this season, and here’s the scoring breakdown for the team:
|RUSH SCORING BY QUARTER IN SASKTEL CENTRE|
That took longer than it probably should have for us to just learn what the prior graph showed us. Sask comes out strong but gradually lets off the gas as the game goes on, ending with a negative goal differential in the fourth quarter. Sure, it seems simple enough. Just limit the Rush early, keep things close, then blow it away in the fourth. But that would be ignoring…
The Swarm’s Concerns
Georgia has climbed back from its slow start to post a positive goal differential in every quarter except for the third. And its -12 goal differential in that 15 minutes isn’t great. But if the team can make that adjustment to not come out of the locker room flat-footed, then this game can go a different way.
The Swarm can also try and make some strides on special teams. Georgia sits next to last in overall powerplay record since it converts only 35.6% of all opportunities. Unfortunately for it, Sask averages the second lowest amount of penalty minutes this season, sitting with 9.76 PIMAVG over 15 games. The Rush only took two penalties when last the two teams clashed.
The keys to Georgia’s success are simple: play a full 60 min., move the feet, swing the ball, get inside, get off the floor quick, kill opponent transition chances. Oh, and have some fun. Teams have to be at their best against the Rush, but being too rigid is a recipe for disaster. Celebrate those goals, play some unselfish lacrosse, come home with a win.