Photo Credit: Larry Palumbo
There are only a few weeks left in the NLL season and the playoff race is in full force. Rochester and Edmonton have locked up a playoff spot in the East and West respectively. Buffalo and Calgary are good position as well and can lock up playoff berths with at least one more win. The rest of the league is clamoring for the last two spots. The race couldn’t be closer as Philadelphia and Vancouver have gained wins recently.
Edmonton earned what could be their biggest win of the season as they took down the Rochester Knighthawks. The Rush have got this whole winning thing down to a science. They easily defeated Rochester on the road. Rochester tried to mount a comeback but it was too little too late. Edmonton’s defense again was the star of the performance. They clogged lanes well and put pressure on Rochester’s shooters and smothered their offense. I don’t want sound cliché but defense definitely wins championships. If Edmonton can keep playing with the fire they have, they are going to roll into the playoffs and all the way to the Champions Cup final.
Rochester was unfortunately on the losing end of a big game. Rochester isn’t in any trouble for the playoffs, but this is most likely their opponent they will be seeing in the finals. Rochester hasn’t fared too well against Edmonton so far this season. However, in the past few seasons, Rochester has been a completely different team in the playoffs. A red flag might be Matt Vinc, who has been the backbone all season long, was pulled after letting up 13 goals in 40 minutes of play. It can’t instill any confidence in the team if your ace in the hole has been yanked in two games this season and only a few weeks out of playoffs.
Run For The Cup
Calgary has worked their way into a good playoff position – they only need one more win to seal the deal. The Roughnecks have all the tools to make a run for the Championships Cup. They have a high-powered offense, a good transition game, and the best faceoff man in the league. Shawn Evans is on pace to break the NLL assist record and Curtis Dickson has finally found his groove. Calgary has two tough games this weekend as they face Philly and Buffalo – these are two big games that Calgary needs to win.
Minnesota had a rough go last weekend against Calgary and faces two games against Rochester this weekend. Minnesota is in last place in the East division and still can make the playoffs but they might be playing the spoiler roll from here on out. Rochester hasn’t been tip top lately, and Minnesota has two opportunities to upset the top dog in the East. Two losses for Rochester can really shake up the East division. We know Minnesota isn’t going to roll over for the rest of the season, so I am predicting some fireworks this weekend.
Wings, Mammoth In The Hunt
The Philadelphia Wings stole a big win away from the Colorado Mammoth last weekend and have put themselves in a good position to make a final push for the playoffs. Philly and Colorado were neck and neck all game long until the Wings pulled away in the 4th quarter. The Wings are currently sitting in third place in the East. They are in a dead lock with Toronto and these last few games are huge. Garrett Thul is slowly becoming one of my favorite players to watch. He showed off his athleticism on a diving score from behind and then even dropped the mitts for a fight.
Even a 4 goal game from Athan Iannucci couldn’t lift the Mammoth to a victory. Colorado has been up and down all season long but are going to have to get something special going for the playoffs. They have all the offense talent they need, Dillion Ward has been playing like a veteran goalie. Colorado’s defense remains the question mark for the team, and will be the downfall in these remaining weeks.
Bandits Need Turnaround
Buffalo dropped their only game this past weekend and are now on a 3 game skid – not something you want heading towards the playoffs. When Steenhuis and John Tavares are making things happen on offense, the rest of the team shuts down. Vancouver was in a gut wrenching battle and greased out a big win over Buffalo. The Stealth offense bombarded Buffalo net minder Anthony Cosmo, and while he stood on his head all game, it wasn’t enough to get the win. Vancouver is in last place in the West, but with Colorado slipping – the door is wide open for Vancouver to take a run.
Work Cut Out For Toronto
Toronto had an opportunity to take down the Rush, but let up 4 goals in the 4th quarter and couldn’t close the game. The Rock have slowed down towards the end of the season. It makes you wonder if the smaller rosters are starting to take a toll on some of the more veteran players and teams. The extended season is going to take a toll on teams heading into the playoffs. These last few weeks are going to test the conditioning of every team in the league. Will Toronto have enough left in the tank? They are right in the middle of the pack and can’t let off the gas now. I think teams that have been rotating players off the practice squad and giving them game experience will pay off in the long run.
Calgary Roughnecks @ Philadelphia Wings
Mark Donahue – Calgary over Philadelphia – The Wings have an open door for a run, but the Necks need one more to secure. I think Calgary out muscles this one.
Chris Rosenthall – Calgary over Philadelphia - There’s always one game a week I’m completely unsure about. This week it’s this one. The Wings have been looking better (and winning) lately, but I’m giving Calgary the advantage on offense and faceoffs.
Ryan Connors – Philadelphia over Calgary – Well why not! I’ll hop aboard the Philadelphia express.
Connor Wilson – Philadelphia over Calgary – The Wings are making a push. I believe this!
Rochester Knighthawks @ Minnesota Swarm
Mark Donahue – Rochester over Minnesota – If any game would be exciting for MN to pick up, this would be it. But other than Logan Schuss, what chance do they really have?
Chris Rosenthall – Rochester over Minnesota - If Minnesota’s going to take at least one of these, I think it’ll be this one (especially if Mac Allen and Joe Walters serve their suspensions and get to skip the road trip). However, I think they’re going to lose both of them, so, there ya go.
Ryan Connors – Rochester over Minnesota – Rochester will bounce back from their loss to Edmonton, they still have one of the best offenses in the game with one of the best goalies.
Connor Wilson – Rochester over Minnesota – Too much talent near the end of the year, the motivation is there for Roch.
Calgary Roughnecks @ Buffalo Bandits
Mark Donahue – Calgary over Buffalo – I would trust the Bandits typically, but they are on a serious skid. I’m sure Calgary will win at least one this weekend, so I picked them in both.
Chris Rosenthall – Calgary over Buffalo - What’s going on with the Bandits? They used to be the second-hottest team in the league. On the other hand, they’ve had much better luck at home, and they’re finally back in Buffalo. Even still, until that offense starts clicking again, I’m going with Calgary.
Ryan Connors – Buffalo over Calgary – There is no way that Buffalo will lose another game in a row.
Connor Wilson – Buffalo over Calgary – Two losses for Calgary? Unlikely! Hopefully I get one of these right!
Minnesota Swarm @ Rochester Knighthawks
Mark Donahue – Rochester over Minnesota – Well, duh. If they don’t win at home, fat chance winning in Rochester.
Chris Rosenthall – Rochester over Minnesota - The Knighthawks have only one home loss this year, and it’s to the Rush. I don’t think they’re picking up their second this weekend. It’s a strong defense vs a weak offense; Knighthawks sweep the series.
Ryan Connors – Rochester over Minnesota – I have to go with the K-Hawks. It is tough to beat the same team back-to-back, but I think Rochester has enough in the tank to pull it off.
Connor Wilson – Rochester over Minnesota – Back to back wins would do Roch some good! It’s a big ask though.
Colorado Mammoth @ Edmonton Rush
Mark Donahue – Edmonton over Colorado- The Mammoth will not be the team to knock off the Rush, no way, no how.
Chris Rosenthall – Edmonton over Colorado - Nope, not betting against them. Why would I?
Ryan Connors – Edmonton over Colorado – Picked against Edmonton last week and I got burned…not making that same mistake again.
Connor Wilson – Edmonton over Colorado – Why did I keep betting against EDM?
Toronto Rock @ Vancouver Stealth
Mark Donahue – Toronto over Vancouver – The Stealth need the win, but the Rock are still strong. Although they are slipping, the vets will take the Rock to the end in this one.
Chris Rosenthall – Toronto over Vancouver - Neither team has been all that hot lately (Toronto hasn’t beaten anybody not named The Swarm in about two months), but Toronto has a win against Vancouver this season, so I’m giving the Rock the nod.
Ryan Connors – Vancouver over Toronto – It could be this cleanse that I’m on that’s messing with my head, but I am feeling a lot of upsets this week. Go Stealth.
Connor Wilson – Toronto over Vancouver – Rock settle it down, play their game, and take a road win in BC.
I think I had season low 91 points this week but I can’t really explain. All of my scorers happened to have off weekends, but I’ll still take it. I fully expect them to bounce back this week and put up big numbers for me. John Ranagan picked up the slack and buried a goal for me. I swapped out Joe Walters for Andrew Suitor. Every time I put Walters on my roster, he doesn’t do anything for me. It didn’t help that he spent a lot of time in the box last weekend.
Correct Picks Running Tally:
Connor Wilson (39-21) Chris Rosenthall (41-19)
Mark Donahue (40-20) Ryan Connors (41-19)