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Toyota Professor: Swarm gearing up for crucial weekend

04/03/2013, 9:45am CDT
By Toyota Professor

Minnesota faces Buffalo (5-8) and Philadelphia (5-7) this weekend


Photo Credit: Alex Carroll

Twelve games into the 2013 season you can say this much about your Minnesota Swarm… they sure have a flair for the dramatic.  After 10 games, the season appeared lost; Captain Andrew Suitor was done for the year after a devastating knee injury and the Swarm had suffered through a three-game losing streak, all to Western Division teams (Edmonton, Washington and Calgary).  But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Swarm is reborn after back-to-back thrashings at the Hive over Washington (12-5 on March 16th) and Philadelphia (20-11) last Friday.  In the nine-year history of the franchise, I don’t recall a more dominant two game performance… even Brian Shanahan who writes a weekly Power Rankings column on www.ilindoor.com has the Swarm moving up three places from 9th to 6th in the league.  “I’m happy with our performance but that recognition doesn’t mean anything to me to be honest,” deadpans Swarm Assistant Coach Aime Caines.  “There are five teams tied for the last playoff spot each with 5 losses so national media rankings are irrelevant.  We need to win games… that’s all that matters to me.”

It’s hard to say exactly which aspect of the Swarm’s game has meant the most to this modest winning streak only because all three facets of the game are clicking.  The offense is on fire… with balanced scoring up and down the roster (12 guys scored vs. the Wings Friday… 12!), the defense led by Jeff Gilbert is mauling the opposition and the goaltending has been nothing short of spectacular.  Tyler Carlson was MVP against the Stealth and Evan Kirk had his best game this season against the Wings on Friday.  As my dad used to say… “Don’t overanalyze it, just enjoy the ride.”

“We’ve been talking all year about getting all three facets of our game going at the same time,” says Caines. “Earlier this season we’d score 15 goals but let in 16.  Or we’d play well on D but not score.  These last two games we’ve had it all going at the same time.  We believe in each other.  It’s been great and we want to keep it up for the next four games and beyond.”

This weekend is crucial.  The Swarm has a double dip of Eastern foes… first hosting the Buffalo Bandits at the Hive Saturday and then traveling to Philly to take on the wounded Wings. “We need to be wild and jump on our prey,” says Caines.  “Buffalo and Philly are struggling and we need to take advantage of that.  We’re quite capable of taking care of business in both arenas this weekend.  We’ve been up and down, winning one and losing one.  But now we’re on a winning streak like we were last year heading into the playoffs.  We want to keep it going… and that’s the key this time of year”

The NLL’s playoff format is very simple:  8 of the 9 teams make it to the postseason and it really doesn’t matter your seed… get in and anything can happen.  Just ask the Edmonton Rush… last year they were the 4th seed in the West and they made it to the Champion’s Cup final.  Swarm Assistant Coach Bobby Keast simplified it for me before the Wings game last weekend when he said… “We’re treating this like the playoffs already.  Win every game like it’s our last game of the season.”  Caines agrees: “I’ve never seen the league so tight.  Usually there are a bunch of teams at the top and a few are fighting for the playoffs.  This year there are five teams fighting and few on top.  It’ll be a dogfight and it’s fun to be a part of it.”

One final note that Aime insisted I add to this report.  I’ll let him take it from here:  “The Hive is an AMAZING place to play.  Our fans were cheering as loud for the 20th goal as for the first.  Even when the Wings scored three power play goals in a row to tie it up at 5-5, our fans were still chanting Dee-Fense!  It’s so great to play in front of our crowd.  And when we hear the goal song (Rudy, the genius behind all of the songs, tells me it’s called “Chelsea Dagger by the Fratellis) 20 times and you know we’re on fire, that’s got to get in the other team’s head… PLEASE KEEP IT UP!”

There you go.  Let’s all do as we’re told!

Class dismissed.

The Toyota Professor

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