Three Hive Fives in one week? Someone stop me, I’m a madman…
The East Division Championship was set last week when the Toronto Rock bested the New England Black Wolves 18-10 at Air Canada Centre. Now it prepares to welcome your Georgia Swarm at home.
Not going to sugarcoat it, this is shaping up to be a great series, folks. Georgia won the first matchup 13-12 in OT at Air Canada Centre, then Toronto knocked off Georgia in the second game with a 12-11 OT victory of its own. Both teams have scored 24 points, and the regular season games show a ton of evenness across the board. I can’t stress it enough: we’re in for a treat tonight.
The Georgia Swarm’s playoff run starts tonight. Keep an eye out on these 5 Quick Stings:
1. Surprisingly Inoffensive
I feel like someone somewhere enjoys being a Negative Nancy and will point at Georgia’s final game of the regular season as evidence that the team might be on a slump. It’s true Georgia was defeated 9-8 by the Rochester Knighthawks.
It’s also true that Johnny Powless, Randy Staats, and Miles Thompson did not play in that game. Furthermore, Rochester, last in the league or not, still had the third-best defense in the NLL. It isn’t crazy that the already eliminated Knighthawks could have kept Georgia to only eight goals. Fun fact, the No. 1 seed in the West Division Saskatchewan Rush fell 14-7 against the also already eliminated Calgary Roughnecks in its final game of the season.
What was important in this low-scoring affair is how Georgia’s defense stepped up. Brodie MacDonald played 59:59 minutes in front of the net, only allowing eight goals the entire night. The defense around him did phenomenal, too. Rochester had 10 power play opportunities and could not capitalize on them, a great sign of how well your man-down defense is doing to prevent an opponent from taking advantage of the penalty. In the third quarter, MacDonald and the defense prevented Rochester from scoring at all. Georgia picked up 76 loose balls and caused 10 turnovers that night.
Having the best offense in 15 years is a good thing to have, but seeing your defense step up and turn in a phenomenal game that the other team only won due to a Hail Mary empty netter from the other side of the floor (a questionable goal if you remember), that has to help head coach Ed Comeau feel good going into the playoffs.
2. One Point Short…
Staats set the NLL scoring record for rookies in 2016 with his incredible 95 points (36G, 59A). A crazy large number for an experienced veteran, you wouldn’t think another rookie would come close to breaking it anytime soon.
Then Toronto’s Tom Schreiber showed up. A rookie to box lacrosse, the field lacrosse veteran came close to surpassing Staats’ incredible record. Schreiber finished with 94 points (33G, 61A), one away from tying Staats’ numbers. In two games against Georgia, Schreiber has scored 11 points (2G, 9A). He helped Toronto destroy New England in the playoffs with his seven points (4G, 3A) and will be looking to deal some more damage against Georgia over the next two weeks.
3. The Wilting Rose
For most of the season, Nick Rose has stalwartly defended the net for Toronto and helped it earn an 8-5 record. The last five games have not been up to his usual caliber, however. He’s been chased out from the net in two of them and earned the loss in three other ones, too.
More troubling for Toronto is how he played against New England last week. He only played for 12:41 min. and gave up five goals to four different Black Wolves. Rose has only given up 24 goals to Georgia in 121:30 min., but he has given up five goals in a quarter to the Swarm twice. Will he be on a short leash again? Or will Toronto opt to go with—
4. What Blooms in the Rose’s Place
Brandon Miller. The 17-year NLL veteran has stepped up big between the pipes in Rose’s place. He hasn’t played much in the regular season, only 64:02 min, but Miller has a 1-1 record while posting a 10.31 GAA and a .766 SV%. More encouraging for the Rock is how he stepped up last week. After Rose was pulled, Miller played the remaining 47:19 min. and blocked 30 shots. He only allowed five goals, good for a 6.34 GAA an .857 SV%. A huge variable in both teams’ plans as Miller has not faced this Georgia Swarm at all this year. In fact, the last time he saw the Swarm was on January 29, 2016. Georgia won that game 20-17, and Miller earned the loss. He took 27 shots but only made 17 saves – a 14.96 GAA and a .630 SV%.
2016 Georgia’s offense was great. 2017 Georgia’s offense is historic. Miller and Rose have their work cut out for them.
5. Air Canada Centre
Georgia knocked off Toronto at its home this season on February 17. The 13-12 overtime victory continued Georgia’s success at Air Canada Centre. Granted, it’s a small sample size of two games since the Swarm moved south, so let’s take a look at how the team did as Minnesota, going all the way back to 2005.
Minnesota had three straight years of losing to Toronto in Air Canada Centre, falling 14-9 in 2015, 14-12 in 2014, and 13-12 in 2013. There was a three-year period where the Swarm never visited that part of Canada, but Minnesota had better success against Toronto in the years before. Ignoring 2006 when the two didn’t meet, Minnesota won three times from 2007-2009 and dropped the ball in 2005. Mashing the two iterations of the Swarm together, it’s 5-4 at Air Canada Centre since 2005.
The fun news, however, is that Georgia’s wins and losses in the Rock’s home seems to come in threes. So tonight’s game could be the third victory straight if the trend continues…