In the third week of the NLL season, the Georgia Swarm will visit the Buffalo Bandits in KeyBank Center on Saturday, Jan. 14. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. EST. Fans can catch the game live via NLLTV.com (paid subscription required).
Here are five things for every lacrosse fan to keep an eye on:
1. Buffalo’s Dhane Smith
The 2016 NLL MVP (as well as member of the 2016 All-Pro First Team) set new single-season records when he scored 72 goals and recorded 137 points last year. The year before that, Smith recorded 107 points (39G, 68A), nearly doubling his totals from 2014. The Colorado Mammoth held him to only one goal and three assists two weeks ago. Georgia will look to continue this veritable scoring machine’s struggles Saturday.
2. The Big O
The Swarm offense was on fire against the Rush. Nine different players scored a goal, and 27 assists were recorded. Georgia also converted half of their man-up opportunities in addition to scoring three shorthand goals. If you aren’t used to it by now, then get used to hearing people describe this Swarm offense as unselfish.
This game is a meeting between the top two scoring offenses of 2016. Buffalo’s Smith is joined by Ryan Benesch and Mark Steenhuis. Between the three of them, they recorded 301 points (145G, 156A), nearly half of the points recorded by Buffalo in 2016.
3. Georgia’s Defense
The moves Georgia made in the offseason to shore up their defense looked effective against the Saskatchewan Rush, the favorites in the West Division. Mike Poulin came in allowing only three goals on 24 shots in 38:24 minutes of play. The defense collectively held the Rush back all night with the Rush only going 3-for-11 on power play opportunities throughout the entire game.
4. Georgia’s Jordan Hall
Almost hidden in Georgia’s offense clinic on Saturday was the performance from one of Georgia’s big offseason acquisitions, Jordan Hall. Hall didn’t score a goal, but he was a part of a third of Georgia’s goals, recording six assists. He also collected 10 loose balls while causing one turnover. Georgia counted on his veteran leadership helping quietly direct a relatively young team in the right direction. So far so good.
5. The Power Play
The first games for both teams were very different where penalties were concerned. Buffalo was man-up only twice in their home opener and were unable to score during either opportunity; they also were man-down five times against Colorado and allowed them to score three times. Georgia, however, went 5-for-10 on power play opportunities but was also man-down 11 times against Saskatchewan. Even more telling was Georgia scoring three shorthand goals. Last year, the Swarm scored 10 shorthand goals all season.
Much like the Swarm’s home opener, expect penalties to play a large part in deciding who comes out on top. He who controls during penalty situations goes home the victor.
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