Editor’s Note: Connor Wilson has handed over the reins of the MLL Weekend Previews and Recaps to Chris Rosenthall, and we’re excited for a fresh take on pro field lacrosse, just in time for the final push and playoffs!
Well, here we are. It’s one whole week later, and we’ve still got four teams fighting hard for three playoff spots. Every team still in it answered the call last week: if they needed to win, they won. If you didn’t need to win (because you’d already clinched or been eliminated), you didn’t.
The odds for playoff spots being wrapped up are much better this week, because two teams can clinch just by winning. Check out this weekend’s match ups to see who’s got the best chance of locking up a spot!
Ohio Machine @ Boston Cannons
If you look at season totals, it’s easy to hand this one to the Cannons. After all, the Machine have given up 170 goals, trailing only Hamilton and Charlotte for most in the league. But this isn’t the same Machine that gave up 23 and 20 points to Chesapeake and Long Island, respectively, early in the season. ThisMachine team, the current team, only allowed a little over 13 points per game last month, even though they played both Denver and Chesapeake during that time.
On the other hand, Boston looked strong last weekend, and their offense was clicking exactly the way it needs to. When you’ve got Rabil successfully dodging from up top and Boyle feeding guys like Sussman and Poskay from x, opposing defenses have to try stopping one over the other, and that gives Boston a great shot at winning.
If the Cannons and Lizards win, AND the Rattlers lose, Boston is headed back to the playoffs. Otherwise they’ll have to wait until next weekend to clinch a playoff spot.
Individual matchup of the week: Kyle Hartzell vs. Paul Rabil.
The training partners with matching 111 mph shots go toe-to-toe for the first time since last year’s playoffs. Will Rabil try to swim over his own friend? So disrespectful. He wouldn’t. Or would he? Will Hartzell counter with the rusty gate that’s already victimized multiple MLL All-Stars? Rabil recently took to twitter and taunted Hartzell over getting skunked in a game of FIFA. Where I come from, you don’t let mess like that slide.
LI Lizards @ Chesapeake Bayhawks
The Lizards are in if they win, but for the Bayhawks, it’s just another weekend of already made the playoffs lacrosse. It can be hard to stay motivated when you clinched your playoff spot two weeks ago. And if motivation isn’t a problem for the Bayhawks, here’s another one for them: the Lizards have only allowed five two-pointers all season, fewest in the league.
Chesapeake is on the verge of setting the record for most two-pointers in a season by a team, but they may have to think of a different strategy to win this game. A new offensive strategy might not be a bad idea anyway, because the Bayhawks’ scoring has been down lately – as they didn’t score more than 13 points in a game last month.
Meanwhile, Long Island’s chances to clinch could come down to their attack duo of Matt Gibson and Tommy Palasek. Those guys were 14 years old when Nicky Polanco and Brian Spallina started running the show in the MLL. Will the rookies be intimidated and thrown off their game, or will they rise to the occasion? If they refuse to back down, it could be big for Long Island’s momentum the rest of the way.
Denver Outlaws @ Rochester Rattlers
It’s so easy to keep picking Denver right now. Honestly, why wouldn’t you? (Editor’s Note: only Connor would pick Rochester, but he has a system.) I said it on Monday and it bears repeating: six different guys scored two or more goals for the Outlaws last week. And by the way, think this is some fluke stat that doesn’t really count since they played the Nationals? The same thing happened the week before. Six different multiple-goal scorers, only that time they were playing the Cannons.
Just like the Lizards, the Outlaws clinch a playoff spot if they win on Saturday. The Rattlers can’t clinch, but they can be eliminated (if they lose and both the Cannons and Lizards win), so they’ll need to find a way to stop the best offense in the league. Rochester has a very capable defense, but you don’t just step in the ring and trade punches with the Denver Outlaws; the Rattlers (who have never scored more than 17 points in a game this season) need to keep this game as low-scoring as possible. If they value their possessions and control the tempo of the game, they’ll have a chance.
Charlotte Hounds @ Hamilton Nationals
The Nationals have been a sinking ship these past few weeks. They’ve lost five of their last six and gave up 19 and 21 points, respectively, in their last two games. The Hounds haven’t put up double digits since their big Chesapeake upset four games ago and they’ll be without third-leading scorer Jeremy Boltus, who tore his ACL last weekend. Both teams are 3-9 and have been eliminated from playoff contention for weeks. At this point, they’re really just looking for something to break their late season falls.
Their seasons may not be ending as well as they hoped, but I honestly still think both teams will come out and give a maximum effort. Guys like Joe Walters and Scott Rodgers never struck me as the “phoning it in” types, and if Geoff Snider suits up against his former team this weekend, the Hounds may be able to get enough opportunities to put some points on the board.
There’s a chance the playoff spots could all be locked up by Saturday night. Personally, I think at least one team will clinch, but we’re going to have to wait until the final weekend of the season for the rest, which is my way of making a prediction without, you know, actually making the prediction. Leave your predictions in the comments section, and I’ll be back on Monday to break it all down.