After a bye week and some much-deserved rest, the Georgia Swarm (7-1) takes to the road, visiting the Calgary Roughnecks (3-5) on Saturday, Mar. 4. Faceoff is set for 9:30 p.m. ET. Fans can catch the game LIVE via NLLTV.com.
Calgary has a rough weekend ahead of them, tackling West Division rival Colorado Mammoth (5-4) before immediately flying home to take on the best team in the NLL.
Here are five things for every Swarm lacrosse fan to keep an eye on:
1. Poulin Returns
Goalie Mike Poulin is halfway through his 11th NLL season. He spent most of his career with Calgary — from 2010 to 2016 — before Georgia signed him at the beginning of the offseason last year. Before Calgary, Poulin played for Toronto (’07-’08) and Boston (’09-’10); he suited up five times for Boston in 2010 before being traded to Calgary. During his time with Toronto and Boston, Poulin played Calgary four times, only manning the posts in two games:
– Feb. 24, 2007 – Calgary Roughnecks v. Toronto Rock, 17-13 Calgary. Poulin, in for 18:41 min., allowed 2 goals on 12 shots, a 6.42 GAA and .833 SV%. Given the loss.
– Feb. 22, 2009 – Boston Blazers v. Calgary Roughnecks, 11-10 Boston. In for the whole game, Poulin finished with a 10 GAA and a .791 SV%.
While officially 1-1 all-time against his former team, Poulin plays great when facing the Roughnecks. Over 78:41 min. of playing time, he’s allowed 12 goals on 60 shots, a 9.15 GAA and .800 SV%. Calgary got to enjoy having Poulin between the pipes on its end of the floor for over six-and-a-half seasons. Now the team faces a problem it hasn’t dealt with since 2009: how to get past Mike Poulin.
2. The Broken Home
Calgary finishes up a two-game road trip of its own this Friday when the team visits the Colorado Mammoth. The team then returns to Scotiabank Saddledome, hoping to reverse its fortunes with a win against the top team in the NLL. While home field advantage is nice, it may not work in Calgary’s favor.
The Roughnecks are only 1-4 at home this season, with the team's only home win on Jan. 28 when it defeated Colorado 12-8. Overall, Calgary is 90-93 in GF-GA, but at home, Calgary is 51-59. 2-1 on the road so far, the Roughnecks may start the weekend of right with a win over the Mammoth, but the 2017 struggles at home threaten to derail Calgary's season. With five NLL teams currently sporting only three wins, Calgary needs its home fortunes to reverse to have any hope of making the playoffs in what is becoming a tight league-wide scramble for the last playoff berth.
3. Superman and his Kryptonite?
Curtis Dickson is Calgary’s best scorer. Sitting at 46 points (25G, 21A), the 2011 Rookie of the Year is one of the few offensive weapons Calgary has to offer. Unfortunately for Calgary, West Division rival Saskatchewan Rush shut him down on Feb. 25. A 12-11 loss for the Roughnecks, Dickson was unable to solve the problem that was Aaron Bold, and his upcoming weekend won’t get any easier as he has to face Colorado’s Dillon Ward before taking on Poulin the next night. Obviously, Calgary needs him to score, but for the team to reverse its season’s fortunes, it desperately needs him to shake off his one bad game of the season.
4. Even Stevens
Calgary’s offense may be the second worst in the NLL, but its defense is the polar opposite, ranking third overall. Having only allowed 93 goals against all season (11.63 GA/GAME), the Roughnecks hang in there every game, having never lost by more than four goals.
Too bad Georgia’s defense is right there with the Roughnecks. The Swarm has only given up 95 goals against all season (11.88 GA/GAME), and Georgia has the offense Calgary is missing to capitalize on the stellar defensive play. Georgia doesn’t waste these opportunities, having scored four goals or more than its opponents in half of its games this season.
5. What’s in the Box?!
In eight games, Georgia has spent 100 minutes in the penalty box (2nd lowest in the NLL), averaging 12.50 penalty minutes per game (3rd lowest). So, roughly 12% of the time the Swarm is on the floor, a player is in the penalty box. With 45 minors (5th in the NLL) and 2 majors (lowest in the sport), Georgia is one of the most disciplined teams on the floor, validating the team’s constant mantra of playing mean and clean.
You probably know where I’m going with this. Calgary’s the opposite of Georgia on this one, too. The Roughnecks, backing up the “rough” part of its name, leads the sport in penalty minutes (204), penalty minute average per game (25.50), and majors (10). That’s roughly a quarter a game that Calgary plays man-down. In Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary has also been in the penalty box for 83 minutes at home. Georgia has rested a player in any visitor's penalty box for only 48 minutes through four away games. With Calgary only successfully killing 47.6% of power play opportunities at home and Georgia scoring on an insane league-leading 73.7% of power play opportunities on the road, the Roughnecks’ game plan will have to consist of staying out of the penalty box entirely to have a fighting chance.