The second round of the NLL Playoffs begins this weekend! Both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals are best of three series with the higher seeds (San Diego and Buffalo) hosting the first matchup of the series.
Colorado Mammoth @ San Diego Seals
Friday, May 13, 10:00pm ET
After Colorado defeated Calgary for only the second time in their playoff history, and San Diego grinded out a victory against Philadelphia, both teams are set to face each other in the Western Conference Finals. We look ahead to this week’s matchup and see who will earn a spot in the NLL Finals in our playoff preview.
The Mammoth and Seals played each other three times during the regular season, with San Diego having won the series 2-1, but the Mammoth won the final meeting, 11-10. Both teams are riding a playoff high right now, as San Diego won their first playoff game in franchise history, and the Mammoth exercised some playoff demons and beat Calgary for only the second time in postseason history.
For San Diego to defeat the Mammoth and advance, they will need Frank Scigliano to continue to play with confidence. When Scigliano is on, he’s one of the best goalies in the league, and can go save for save with Dillon Ward, but if he gets off to a bad start, it could cause a snowball effect and put pressure on the loaded Seals offense to be flawless. San Diego also needs some more heroics from Austin Staats. Last week he turned it on in the second half and helped spark the offense in their win over the Wings. His passion and energy is needed if the Seals want to go to their first NLL Cup Finals in franchise history.
For Colorado to get back to their first cup appearance since 2006, Ryan Lee needs to continue to score. Lee finished the regular season with 119 points and had 10 points in the win over Calgary. He clearly is the engine driving the Mammoth offense and that needs to continue for the Mammoth to win. They also need the secondary scoring to continue as well. In the win over the Roughnecks, The Mammoth had six players score three or more points. If they can continue to get secondary scoring like that, paired with Dillon Ward, the Mammoth might be hard a hard team for any competitor to slow down.
With a best of three series starting this weekend, and they way these teams played each other during the regular season, it’s hard to say which team truly has the upper hand, Colorado is clearly a different team from the one San Diego defeated twice, and when Colorado defeated the Seals, it was in the middle of their six game losing streak. Ultimately though, I think the Seals defeat the Mammoth and give Brodie Merrill one more chance to play for a NLL Cup.
Prediction: Seals Win the Series 2-0
Toronto Rock @ Buffalo Bandits
Sunday, May 15, 6:00pm ET
The top two seeds in the east square off this weekend as Toronto travels to Buffalo on sunday to kick off the Eastern Conference Finals. Toronto punched their ticket to the second round after some overtime heroics from Challen Rogers, while Buffalo outlasted Albany to set up their second meeting with Toronto in the last three weeks.
Toronto won the season series 2-1 over Buffalo including a 10-7 win in the regular season finale. Toronto was able to hold the league’s highest scoring offense to its two lowest scoring outputs this season.
For The Rock to return to the championship for the first time since 2015, they are going to need Nick Rose to continue being a stone wall in net. The NLL regular season leader in wins and goals against average has been the key to Toronto’s success this season. If they want to upset the top scoring offense in the NLL, they will need Rose to take his elite play to another level this playoff series. Even if Rose continues his elite play, Toronto will still need to score goals, and while Tom Schrieber has been the offensive leader this season, they will need added scoring from Challen Rogers and some vintage play from Dan Dawson if they want to outpace Buffalo’s offense.
Buffalo has been the season long favorite to hoist the NLL Cup with their dominant offense, and stellar goaltending from Matt Vinc, it’s obvious why. But for Buffalo to move on to the championship, they have to solve the riddle that is the the Toronto Rock. Buffalo’s scoring output against Toronto has gone down with each game the two teams played, and as previously mentioned, their lowest point totals have come against the Rock. For Buffalo they need to score, and score often. They need to set the pace each game and force Toronto to play in a shootout. If they can put pressure on the Rock defense and offense as well, Buffalo should have no problem advancing.
Even though the Rock have been able to keep Buffalo in check during the regular season, Buffalo is focused and eager to get back to the finals and redeem themselves after their 2019 Championship loss. I think Buffalo is able to get over the playoff hump this season and move on to the NLL Finals.
Prediction: Buffalo Wins the Series 2-0