If you have not been paying attention to the MLL this year, you have been missing out! Right now, we are in the midst of quite possibly the most competitive season the league has ever seen.
*If you took those introductory lines lightly, please re-read.*
The talent of each team from top to bottom is incredible, and it shows on the field. Veterans are showing why they’re still in the league, rookies are making an impact, and just about anything can happen in each game.
How It Came To Be
This should not be too shocking. Everything that is happening this year is undoubtedly looming in the shadow of the unprecedented tiebreaker at the end of the 2016 season.
For those who need a refresher, all but two teams tied at the end of last year with a record of 8-6. This led to the entire playoff field being selected via tiebreaker scenarios (and a ton of angry pro-ballers on social media). So with everything seeming even more competitive compared to a year ago, I decided it was a good time to actually see where we sit.
First, take a look at the current standings as they are right now:
|Team||Wins||Losses||Win%||Wins over||Losses to||Left||Streak|
|Denver||7||2||.778||CHA(x2) NY(x2) FL, BOS, ATL||ROC, BOS||OH(x2) ROC, CHE(x2)||+2|
|Ohio||7||3||.700||ATL, CHA, FL, CHE(x2) BOS(x2)||ROC, CHA,NY||DEN(x2) NY, ROC||-1, won 5 previous|
|Charlotte||5||5||.500||ROC, OH, ATL, CHE, FL||DEN(x2) OH, CHE, ATL||NY(x2) FL, BOS||+3|
|Florida||5||5||.500||ROCx2, NYx2, ATL||BOS, DEN, OH, CHA, ATL||CHE(x2) CHA, BOS||-2|
|New York||4||5||.444||CHE, ATL, ROC ,OH||DEN(x2) BOS, FLx2||ATL, CHA(x2) OH, BOS||+1|
|Chesapeake||4||5||.444||BOS, CHA, ATL, ROC||NY, OH(x2) ROC, CHA||FL(x2) DEN(x2) ATL||+1|
|Atlanta||4||6||.400||BOS, CHA, ROC, FL||OH, NY, CHE, CHA, FL, DEN||NY, CHE, ROC, BOS||-1|
|Rochester||4||6||.400||OH, BOS, DEN, CHE||FL(x2) CHA, NY, ATL, CHE||BOS, DEN, ATL, OH||-3|
|Boston||3||6||.333||FL, NY, DEN||ATL, CHE, ROC, DEN, OH(x2)||ROC, NY, CHA, FL, ATL||-1|
Now, let’s compare to last year at this point. For reference, I used the July 4th game as the cutoff.
The total games played for each team is not the same, but it’s pretty darn close.
2016 Standings as of July 4th (LAST SEASON)
|Team||Wins||Losses||Win %||Final Record||Playoffs?|
That’s right. This year is even CLOSER that it was at this point in 2016. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!
In the coming weeks, I will start doing my playoff scenarios once again, but for now, I’ll stick to some lazier analysis. Why? Because with 20 games left to go, there are 40 different outcomes.
Each of those outcomes then impacts the standings, and tiebreakers bring point differentials into plays. As you keep multiplying out possibilities, you can see that it gets to a size that just is a little crazy right now.
Could it be done? Absolutely! Just give me another week when the numbers are a little smaller and easier to deal with.
Now, let’s take a quick look at each team to see what they’ve done, what they have left, and how their playoff chances look.
MLL Playoffs: Where We’re At Now
The Outlaws are the reigning champs and they are playing like it. Sitting in the top spot of the league, they are coming off a dismantling of Atlanta.
Denver has shown spurts of this before, but this was something else. They are currently the most efficient offense in the league, they have the second best defense in the league, and are showing no signs of slowing down.
Working against them, is one of the toughest schedules left. Two games against Chesapeake, two games against Ohio, and one game against Rochester is one heck of a way to end the regular season. If anyone in the league can handle that lineup, it’s the Outlaws.
Last year’s runner up is continuing to look like one of the best teams in the league. Their defense is operating on another level, despite switching goalies in the middle of the season. They picked up some good players in the draft, but the Machine are relying on their core from a year ago to keep them where they are.
The Machine were also the hottest team in the league up until their thrilling loss to New York. The toughest thing for Ohio to make it back to the postseason? Their schedule.
They still have to see Denver twice, and face New York and Rochester. Both are teams they have already lost to this season.
Charlotte is one of the best and quietest teams in the league right now. They were a playoff team a season ago, which was described as “ahead of schedule” with regards to their long term plans as a franchise.
Now, they sit in third place after having a strong draft (including Matt Rambo) and gaining Kevin Crowley from the NLL. According to MoneyBallLacrosse.com, the Hounds are sporting the third most efficient offense, and the third most efficient defense.
All this comes together to tell me that Charlotte is squarely where they deserve to be. Their biggest test is going to be holding off the Lizards, twice, to end the season.
The turnaround in Florida this season has been nothing short of outstanding. They were at the bottom of the league with just three wins last year, and have almost doubled that already.
Neither their offense or defense is really blowing anyone away. The great news for Florida is that based on standings alone, their schedule is very winnable.
But, based on past experience, they have two games against teams they have lost to, and two more against the Bayhawks.
New York Lizards
On paper, New York is the best team around. They entered the season with some question marks, but reinforced that through the draft. They also are one of the few teams that were not heavily reliant on NLL players or college coaches.
Curtis Dickson game them a great boost, but overall, this group has underperformed. That has likely changed, though. Right at the trade deadline, the Lizards traded with Boston to pick up Will Manny.
Manny gives them a very different style of play that they just did not have. He’s a wrinkle in the offense that was not there before and might be what New York was looking for to put together a late season run.
The Bayhawks, like New York, should be much higher than this. They’re loaded with talent at every position.
It wasn’t long ago the Inside Lacrosse ran a story about Myles Jones and Lyle Thompson being the faces of college lacrosse. Now, they’re on the same team and playing like two of the best at their positions in the league.
Along with the rest of their stellar lineup, the Bayhawks are the 2nd most efficient offense in the league, according to MoneyBallLacrosse.com. Their defense isn’t ideal, but if that tightens up just a little bit, the Bayhawks should be seeing the postseason.
The Blaze are in a very similar position as they were a year ago. The difference is that I do not see them losing out and being at the bottom of the league.
If you look at their most recent Denver game, you would say I was crazy. But, in that same weekend, they dominated Florida and held the Launch to just 4 goals. Before that, they topped Rochester in overtime.
They are running a type of offense almost nobody has seen, which is Scott Ratliff (LSM Extraordinaire) playing true offense with a longpole. They also have a healthy Kevin Rice, who was out for a portion of the season with a broken hand. The Blaze are really poised to put a run together.
The Rattlers really shouldn’t be this low, but it is what it is. They do have 6 losses, but they have also played in six one goal games, including four overtime games. They are 2-2 in those overtime matches, and 1-1 in the narrow regulation games.
The Ratz have played every team and only Charlotte and Boston are teams they have not had a one goal game with. While they do not play Charlotte again, they still face the Cannons a second time (who they beat), and have wins over everyone else on their schedule, too.
Sweeps against any team is difficult, but doing it against four? It will be tough, but it’s what the Rattlers need to see the postseason with any sort of confidence.
The Cannons are last in the standings, because, I guess somebody has to be. They split games with Denver, and if it weren’t for possibly the worst 5 minutes of defense in franchise history, they could have swept the Outlaws.
But, now they have traded away their top scorer in Will Manny and are shifting to one of the biggest lineups in the league, mostly running out of the midfield. The odds are not in their favor, but give Boston credit for trying something. They needed a spark, so we’ll if some new faces on offense can provide that.
What is in their favor is they have wins over two of their remaining opponents already, which would serve them well in tiebreakers. The Cannons are not playing for a one seed, but they are in a serious fight to make the playoffs.