After back to back wins against the Buffalo Bandits and New England Black Wolves on the road, the Philadelphia Wings are at their spiciest. Road wins to climb into first place in the NLL East Division are enough evidence to display the Wings are playing their best lacrosse this season. As Philadelphia hosts the Saskatchewan Rush, ranked first in the NLL West Division, the Wings are looking to prove they are the cream of the crop. Pressure creates diamonds, and Philadelphia is attempting to shine brightly in the second half of the 2020 NLL season. As the NLL’s beat road team, the Rush hope dampen the party.
With a 5-2 record, the Saskatchewan Rush are two games ahead of the Colorado Mammoth in the NLL West Division. The Philadelphia Wings are also sitting pretty with a 7-3 record, one game ahead of the Georgia Swarm. If the Wings can buckle down at home against the Rush, they will hand Saskatchewan their first loss on the road. Expect a close game between the Rush and Philadelphia. The defense is always a key to victory for the Wings, but Saskatchewan usually scores double-digit goals on the road (only being held under ten once, 9-8, against the Mammoth.)
When comparing the NLL East Division and NLL West Division, the Philadelphia Wings have faced tougher competition this season. The only team in the NLL East Division without a winning record is the New York Riptide. Adversely, the only team with a winning record in the NLL West Division is the Saskatchewan Rush. Tonight, we’ll get the answer about the Wings being as good as advertised or if the Rush has had an easy run. As these two franchises clash at the Wells Fargo Center, expect both teams to play at their optimum (Philadelphia is best at home this season and Saskatchewan is undefeated on the road.)
Tale of the Tape
Extra possessions are going to be the name of the game tonight. The Saskatchewan Rush recover about 82 loose balls on average, which separates them the most from the Philadelphia Wings. If the Wings are to stay in control against the Rush tonight, it will be because of their dominance against most teams in the NLL on faceoffs. Every single game, Trevor Baptiste plays a bigger role than what most can fathom. He might not be the man scoring often, but because Baptiste is winning such a high majority of faceoffs (73%), Kevin Crowley, Brett Hickey, and Josh Currier have more chances to put the ball in the back of the net.
Players to Watch
For the Saskatchewan Rush, the player that I am singling out is Evan Kirk. He is ranked as the seventh-best goaltender in the NLL. He’s played every game for the Rush this season. His record is 5-1 this season. Along with that record, Kirk maintains an 80.2% save percentage with 9.54 goals-against average.
In comparison, the Philadelphia Wings have more assets. In a goaltender-to-goaltender breakdown, Zach Higgins gives the Wings a big advantage. He is the best goaltender in the NLL. Only Eric Penney and Dillon Ward have played as many games as Higgins and are also listed in the top ten of NLL goaltenders. Higgins has started every game this season for Philadelphia, maintaining an 82.8% save percentage with 8.76 goals-against average.
Kevin Crowley and Matt Rambo are ranked in the top ten of all NLL players in cumulative points this season. Brett Hickey is a top-five goal scorer in the NLL and leads the Philadephia Wings. Crowley is a top-five playmaker in the NLL, ranked second in the league in assists. If the Wings are to take advantage of the Saskatchewan Rush at the Wells Fargo Center tonight, Hickey is going to have to continue being an asset when on the powerplay. When games are tight in the final quarter of play, Hickey has been one of the brightest players in possession of Philadelphia.
Face-off tonight is at 7 pm from the Wells Fargo Center. The game can be viewed on NBC Sports Philadelphia and Bleacher Report Live. For live updates from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, follow EricReesePSN and PhiladelphiaSN on Twitter!
Mandatory Credit – Alex McIntyre