Swarm Victory! | Photo Credit: Kyle Hess
There are nine teams in the NLL, and only one can still claim to be undefeated, your very own Georgia Swarm. They conclude their road trip with a visit to Denver to take on the Colorado Mammoth (2-3) who are trying to prevent a three-game losing streak from developing. Faceoff is set for 9:00 p.m. ET this Saturday, Feb. 4. Fans can watch the game at NLLTV.com.
Here are five things for every Swarm lacrosse fan to keep an eye on:
The Georgia Swarm is off of to their best start since the 2008 season. The 2008 Minnesota Swarm posted the best start in team history by going 6-0 as well as tying with the Buffalo Bandits, New York Titans, and Philadelphia Wings for first in the East Division (it was an odd year where the four aforementioned teams all finished with a 10-6 record). And as good as that 2008 team was, the current iteration of the Swarm is arguably better. In 2008, the Swarm averaged 15 goals for (GF) per game while allowing 12.25 goal against (GA). The 2017 Swarm have averaged 16 GF per game while allowing 11.25 GA.
But it’s difficult for any team to go 4-0 to start the season, let alone 5-0. The last team to accomplish this 4-0 mark was the Colorado Mammoth last year before the Saskatchewan Rush handed them an L. Fun fact, the Rush (back when they were Edmonton) were the last team before the Mammoth to go 4-0 back in 2014 (the Rush were insanely good that year, winning their first 14 games).
2. E’s on My Gamesheets
Time for a stats lesson:
On a gamesheet, there are a couple of notes besides some players’ goals. There are four notes: (en), (ea), (ps), and (ups). (En) stands for an empty net goal, (ea) means extra attacker, (ps) means penalty shot, and (ups) records an unmade penalty shot. For this sting, we’ll only concentrate on (ea) and (en).
An extra attacker occurs when the goalie is pulled to put another man on the floor, usually at the end of a quarter and with the hope that the extra player will result in a goal. This is normally done by a team trying to build up some momentum or go on a last-ditch run to tie the game up. A double-edged sword, if your offense somehow turns the ball over, it’s easier for the opposing team to take advantage and score an empty net goal.
With this in mind, let’s look at the gamesheets for Georgia and Colorado. Georgia has five empty net goals in the season and hasn’t allowed any extra attacker goals. Colorado has scored three extra attacker goals but has also allowed three of the same in addition to having an empty net goal scored against them.
3. Killing Penalty
Georgia and Colorado are feasting on power play opportunities, scoring on 58.62% and 61.54% power play chances respectively. Even as they may be in this department, there is a clear difference when it comes to their penalty killing percentages (PK%). Georgia has a 54.17 PK%, but Colorado gets run over when man-down, posting a 35.00 PK%. While Georgia’s power plays are always a part of its wins, look for them to capitalize on Colorado’s inability to kill penalties this Saturday.
4. Chasing Out Ward
Colorado’s Dillon Ward – playing his fourth season with the Mammoth – has been good for the team. In his first three seasons, he’s been between the pipes for 2471 min., has a record of 21-16, a 11.53 GAA, and a .776 SV%. In the first three games of the 2017 season, he’s 2-1 over 180:50 min. with a 10.62 GAA and a .793 SV%.
Unfortunately for Colorado, that success hasn’t continued. Ward’s been chased off the floor before reaching 20 minutes of action in both of his most recent matches. In only 32:12 min. defending against Calgary, he’s allowed 11 goals on 26 shots, a GAA of 20.50 and a .577 SV%. Alex Buque has been good replacing Ward between the pipes (Buque is 10.25 GAA and a .758 SV% in 87:48 min.), but his good defense isn’t enough for Colorado to dig out of the holes they dig themselves in early in games. Colorado needs the Ward of old to help fend off the dangerous Swarm offense.
5. Embracing a Losing Streak
If you’re a Georgia lacrosse fan, you shouldn’t be tired of hearing how great this Swarm team is. If you’re a fan of the Mammoth, you’re probably aware of the Swarm buzzing towards your home and hoping Colorado has the answer to stopping the best team in the NLL. Recent history, however, might not be on your side.
Georgia has been part of three separate teams’ losing three or more games, and has furthered the losing streaks of the last two. The Buffalo Bandits (2016 Champions’ Cup finalist) lost their second game of the season against Georgia, scraped up a win against a downtrending Vancouver Stealth, and then lost again to the New England Black Wolves. Speaking of New England (2nd in the 2016 East Division), Georgia handed them their third straight loss two weeks ago. And most recently, Vancouver couldn’t turn the tide and lost their fourth game in a row when Georgia visited last Saturday. Colorado has a good chance of joining Vancouver at the bottom of the West at 2-4 if this trend continues.