Just two games are left on the Swarm’s schedule, and first up is their final regular season road game of the season and the only NLL team the Swarm have yet to face this season – the Calgary Roughnecks.
The Roughnecks are currently third in the West Division with an 8-8 record, having punched their own ticket back to the postseason with an 18-13 win against the Philadelphia Wings last Saturday. They’ll be trying to improve their postseason seeding over their last two games, and the path to home-floor advantage starts with their penultimate home game against the Swarm.
But the Roughnecks will have their work cut out for them as the Swarm come in riding a hot five-game win streak. One of the benefits of winning five-straight for the Swarm was they moved into a tie for…
BEST RECORD IN THE NLL
The Toronto Rock helped out on this one quite a bit, defeating the Buffalo Bandits in overtime 12-11 last Friday. That put the Bandits’ record at 12-4. Meanwhile, the Swarm were busy defeating the San Diego Seals at the same time, and that 17-10 win improved their overall record to 12-4, as well.
While the Swarm and Bandits are tied for the best record in the NLL, the Swarm have the tiebreaker over their division rival. The two East Division teams split the two-game season series, so the next tiebreaker is their division records. The Rock were really helpful for the Swarm in this situation as their win gave the Bandits another loss to an East Division opponent. So now the Swarm are 9-3 against the East, and the Bandits are 8-4.
If the season ended today, the Swarm would have home-floor advantage in each round of the NLL postseason they advance to. But the season doesn’t end today, so they need to win their last two games to ensure they have the best record in the NLL.
Focusing on one game at a time, the Swarm will have to best the Roughnecks first in their quest to finish with a 14-4 regular season record. And standing in their way is…
CHRISTIAN DEL BIANCO
The Swarm don’t play Calgary often due to division alignments. Last season, that might have been a good thing.
The two teams played each other on Jan. 13, 2018 when both teams were 1-3 and trying to right the ship early in the 2017-18 season. Playing in Scotiabank Saddledome, the Swarm disappointed the home crowd with a 15-12 win, chasing starting netminder Frank Scigliano from net. Christian Del Bianco replaced Scigliano for the last 23:44 min., making 13 saves on 16 SOG. That’s a 7.92 GAA and an .813 SV%.
It was just the start of a stellar campaign for CDB. He finished the 2017-18 season having played 788:34 min. and posting a 10.50 GAA and a .793 SV%.
This season, the 21-year-old goaltender has an 11.25 GAA and a .783 SV% over 954:44 min. After holding opponents to single digits eight times last season, young CDB has only done that six times in 2018-19. But he does have two five-goal games to his name this season and leads the leagues in saves. No telling how he’ll do this Friday until the game happens, so let’s instead think about the…
RETURN OF CATTONI
Much like the matchup of Randy and Austin Staats, some of us have had this game circled in our calendar since the 2018 NLL Entry Draft. Friday will mark the first time that Holden Cattoni will play against the team that drafted him.
Last week may have a bit of a taste of what’s to come for Cattoni’s return to Calgary. He chased former teammate Scigliano from the pipes with a shorthanded goal, his first of the night. That may not sound too damaging, just one goal against, but that would ignore the five assists Cattoni handed out beforehand. Overall, Cattoni was involved in six of the 14 Swarm goals against Scigliano, and if that’s not considered doing damage, then I don’t know what is.
Hopefully that’s a precursor for Friday night. Cattoni will return to his former haunt and face the team that traded him during the 2018 NLL Entry Draft and drafted him in the 2016 NLL Entry Draft. Cattoni has said he’s excited for this game, but his sole objective is to get the team win.
Since it is a team win the Swarm want, they’ll need contributions from everyone since…
DIVERSITY IS KING
Ideally, the Swarm want as many different players to score as possible. Whenever they have eight or more different players find the back of the net this season, then the team is 7-0. Going back to 2016, the Swarm are 27-4 with 8+ players scoring.
It’s not enough just to have multiple players find the back of the net in a game, though. Probably the biggest key to the Swarm’s recent offensive success has been how their shot selection has been strong the past few weeks.
After that loss to Colorado, the Swarm have increased their shooting percentage and shot on goal percentage nearly every week. Last week’s shooting percentage against the Seals – 23.61% – was the second highest of the season; the top Swarm S% in a game was the 23.88% against Rochester on Feb. 2. But in that game, the Swarm posted a 67.16 SOG%. Against the Seals, they delivered a season-high 81.94 SOG%.
What that means is that the Swarm are making smart and accurate shots. A lower SOG% means a number of misses, but the Swarm’s numbers against the Seals indicate that they were borderline surgical in how they got the ball past the opposing goaltender.
It’s a great sign that the Swarm’s offensive prowess is clicking at the right time of year. But they aren’t the only ones having success; the Roughnecks’ have been getting great production all year long from…
The NLL leader in points with 99, Dane Dobbie is turning in the best season of his 12-year career. His 39 goals are one behind Lyle’s, and his 60 assists are tied for second-most in the league. The Elora, Ontario native is also a full 30 points ahead of the next closest Roughneck, Curtis Dickson with 69 (30G, 39A).
Which leads to the next point. You can’t just focus defensively on Dobbie because Dickson will take advantage. In the last five games between the Swarm and Roughnecks, Dobbie and Dickson are the ones regularly leading the Roughnecks in scoring. Both have had 11-point nights against the Swarm since 2016.
The Roughnecks offense runs through them – 42.33% of all Calgary’s shots have come from the duo. Dobbie is averaging 16.25 S/GAME, and Dickson is averaging 16.33. Raining shots has certainly been a part of their success, and the Swarm will try and limit their opportunities as much as possible to stay ahead of the home team.
Even then, the Swarm can’t dedicate all of their defensive resources to those two. That’s how you get stung by Rhys Duch or Dan Taylor or Riley Loewen. How the Swarm handles the Roughnecks’ top two offensive weapons and their other talented scorers will be the key to Friday’s results.
Just because the Swarm are riding a five-game win streak doesn’t mean they can take their opponent easily. But if the past two games have been any indication, the men in blue and yellow are treating each game as win-or-go-home, and that’s something the Roughnecks should be worried about.
Friday’s game will be broadcast on the B/R Live app available through iTunes, Google Play, Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire.
The Swarm return home on Saturday, April 20 to take on the Philadelphia Wings in the regular season finale and host Fan Appreciation Night presented by Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. ET. Early arriving fans can receive a Swarm Team Poster courtesy of Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC and can get autographs from Swarm players on the floor postgame. Tickets are available by calling 844-4-GASWARM or by visiting GeorgiaSwarm.com/Fan.
Tickets for the East Division Semifinals are on sale now at GeorgiaSwarm.com/Playoffs. Ticket packages include two-game and four-game playoff packs and are available by calling 844-4-GASWARM.