The NLL postseason is finally here.
The Georgia Swarm play host to the Toronto Rock on Monday, May 6 at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena in the East Division Semifinals presented by Reeves Young. It’ll mark the fourth time the two teams have played each other in 2018-19 and the first time the division rivals have met in the postseason since 2017. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET
The Swarm took the season series against the Rock, winning two of their three meetings. Both teams jumped to the top of the NLL standings early in the season and have stayed there ever since, each finishing with a 12-6 record – tied for the second-best regular season record in the NLL.
Despite the frequent matchups between the two, the three games against the Rock are only a fraction of their season’s story. Before Monday gets here, this scouting report can catch you up on what’s ahead from the No. 3 seed in the East.
HOW THE ROCK GOT HERE
By winning one-goal games.
The Rock found a way to win in those close games and have the most one-goal wins out of all 11 NLL teams, having played in eight of them and won seven – the next closest team in terms of one-goal wins are the Bandits, Swarm, Black Wolves, Seals and Warriors; they all have two each. That one loss came at the hands of the Swarm back on Dec. 28, the Rock’s first loss of the season.
After starting 1-1, the Rock won six-straight – including getting revenge against the Swarm and knocking off the defending champion Saskatchewan Rush on Feb. 1. They spent some time at the top of the East before slowing down in the second half of the season.
Over their last nine games of the regular season, the Rock went 5-4. To cap off their regular season, they went to Vancouver to take on the Warriors and handily bested the rebranded West Division team 15-9 on April 26.
The Rock’s offense is sixth in the NLL following their 15-point regular season finale, averaging 11.83 GF/GAME. Tom Schreiber leads the team in points with 94 (29G, 65A), and Rob Hellyer leads the team in goals with 36. Adam Jones finished with 56 points (25G, 31A) after missing a significant stretch of season. During his five-game absence while on the IL, the Rock were 2-3 and averaged 9.40 GF/GAME.
On the power play, the Rock are converting 47.37% of their chances. That power play conversion rate is sixth in the NLL.
The Rock offense had a particularly difficult March 22-23 when the team faced the Swarm and Bandits in doubleheader action. The team scored just 11 goals in the two games – six of them from forwards – and posted a collective 8 S% and 68.12 SOG%. In their final five games after that rough doubleheader weekend, the Rock offense averaged 12.40 GF/GAME.
The Rock feature one of the grittiest defenses in the league and arguably one of the top two defenses in the East Division. They are led by their young captain Challen Rogers and assistant captain Billy Howstrawser.
Rogers is only in his third year in the NLL and just 24, but as far as strong defense and deadly transition skills go, there are not many players better in the NLL. Howstrawser has seven years of NLL experience despite being just 27 and knows how to frustrate the best forwards.
The Rock are led in caused turnovers by Brad Kri. He’s tied for the fifth-most CTOs in the league with 31. Throw in youngsters Brandon Slade and Latrell Harris, veterans Brock Sorensen and Creighton Reid, and the historically great faceoff player that is Jay Thorimbert, and it’s no wonder the Rock can frustrate the best NLL offenses.
While man-down, the Rock have struggled. The team has only stopped 48.39% of their opponent’s power play opportunities, the worst penalty kill in the league. Fortunately for the Rock, they are one of the least penalized teams in the NLL, averaging just 10.50 PIM/GAME – second-lowest in the NLL.
The Rock have one of the top netminders in the league in Nick Rose. Rose finished his 2018-19 regular season campaign with an 11.73 GAA and a .771 SV% over 1028:03 min. – a new career high for him. The 31-year-old goalie benefits from a strong defense in front of him and playing smart angles, making him a veritable wall at times.
Backing him up is Riley Hutchcraft, who saw all of 56:5 min. of action. The 21-year-old netminder posted a 5.27 GAA and .861 SV% in his second season in the NLL.
VS. THE SWARM
Since 2016, the Swarm and Rock have played each other 10 times. The Swarm are 8-2, having outscored the Rock by 20 goals across the last four seasons. The Swarm average 12.80 GF/GAME, and the Rock average 10.80 GF/GAME.
At Infinite Energy Arena, the Swarm have gone 4-1 against their East Division opponent. The Swarm offense has posted a 12.40 GF/GAME across five games. The Rock offense struggles on Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field, evidenced by their 9.40 GF/GAME.
Georgia and Toronto have met just twice in the postseason, back in the best-of-three East Division Finals in 2017. The Swarm handily swept the Rock, defeating them 11-8 on the road and then 13-9 at home.
This season, the Swarm are 2-1 against the Rock. They played them twice in Scotiabank Arena, defeating the home team in a tight 12-11 game on Dec. 28 before having the tables turned and losing 14-9 on Jan. 18. The Swarm took the season series with one of their best games of the season, holding the Rock to just five goals and tacking on 14 of their own at Infinite Energy Arena on March 22.
This season, the Swarm are averaging 11.67 GF/GAME against the Rock, and the Rock are averaging 10.00 GF/GAME in return.