The PLL playoffs commence in Boston this weekend as six of the remaining seven teams square off in round one at Gillette Stadium.
PLL Quarterfinal Playoff Preview
Chrome have left the building. It was a summer of offensive dysfunction. Expect changes. Saturday’s loss was marred by a fight.
Russ saw it live in Salt Lake City. “Referee Matt Palumb looked at the replay. He threw three players out on each side for coming off the bench. He gave out a 2 min non-releasable on the Milkman, Connor Farrell and a 1 min non releasable on Rowlett for retaliation. Chrome coach Tim Soudan wanted everyone thrown out on Chaos, claiming that they all left the bench.” Palumb didn’t buy it.
The Chrome players that got ejected all started throwing their equipment into the stands. Fans were loving it. One player even threw his stick into the stands before exiting the pitch.
Redwoods vs Chaos
11:45 on ESPN+
Lefty attack-man Ryder Garnsey is shooting 41% off the iso dodge. Redwoods (+850) take the most unassisted shots in the PLL as the ball tends to die in sticks. Midfield scoring is their truth serum. A post-season run would be dependent on Nakeie Montgomery, Charlie Bertrand, Jules Heningburg and Romar Dennis elevating production. Montgomery got hammered on Friday night and didn’t return to action. His status is worth following.
ESPN stat man Russ Dlin asks, “Can Redwoods put enough shots on cage (Last in PLL w 60.5% SOG) and put them past Big Blaze who leads the league with 135 saves?”
If those shots are coming off iso dodges, I’ll take Blaze. Woods have to move him and move his eyes.
Meanwhile for the Chaos, lefty Josh Byrne scores a ton of points on a per touch basis. He’s back into the lineup. Not quite sure how to quantify the Chaos in 2023…they either aren’t very good, or they’re an under-achieving team during the regular season who likes to turn it up a notch in September.
Coach Andy Towers and assistants Jamie “Booger” Hanford and Matt Pannetta settled on a lineup after experimenting with combos all summer. Their personnel moves from 2022 to 2023 have benefited others. They got rid of Matt Rees, Challen Rogers, Jonathan Donville and Mac O’Keefe…all have become mainstays in their new PLL homes. Although that’s yesterday’s news, I do think it’s more a credit to Chaos player evaluation. There are only 19 players dressing each week. You can’t hide players in your clubhouse.
What matters right now is that the Chaos have a scary close defense and Blaze Riorden between the pipes, a stopper who can heat up and shut the door. At +700 they offer value, although a looming semifinal against the Archers may be a tall order. If anybody is going to slow down the Archers, it may be the Chaos.
“If I could pick one player in the league to ride with into the playoffs it’s Blaze Riorden,” says Carcaterra. “He can tilt the outcome of a game more than any single player in the league. His big save ability and style gets in the head of shooters and gives his defenders a level of confidence where they can be risk takers. He also triggers transition with near flawless outlet passes.”
Blaze makes his final stand. Chaos are a slight favorite over the Woods.
Whipsnakes vs Waterdogs
2:20 on ESPN+
The Whipsnakes (+600) are big and slow, suddenly older and seem to have lost the eye of the tiger. Lock HOF LSM Michael Ehrhardt will be hanging up his cleats soon. How long will Mike Chanenchuk and Brian Phipps stay around? Kyle Bernlohr is now 30. Tim Muller and Matt Dunn have a lot of miles on their tires. I don’t think the SSDM position group is elite. I don’t love their complimentary midfield scoring. Rookie Tucker Dordevic has been outstanding although Matt Rambo hasn’t been the same this summer after winning gold for Team USA and checking that box. He’s been battling a finger injury in August.
A trade for Jackson Morrill smells of desperation. Coach Jim Stagnitta, perhaps has learned that the regular season means little. It makes me wonder. Could we see a Whips revival in the quarters or is the sun setting on their destiny?
Dlin makes an astute point, “This may be the ‘Battle of the 2-point goals’ as Whipsnakes lead the PLL with 15 2-pointers vs Waterdogs who are 3rd in the PLL w 12 2-pointers on the season.”
Two-pointers are massive momentum changers.
Waterdogs (+380), the 2022 champs appear to be trending in the right direction after an overtime win over the Archers in Utah. Jack Hannah and Ryan Conrad perked up from the midfield. This team has excellent speed, they cause turnovers and get championship goaltending from the high-arc master Dillon Ward. Michael Sowers, Kieran McArdle and Ethan Walker have synergy on attack. Conceding face-offs and ragging for turnovers has proven to be a viable strategy. Say no to the FOGO. Purple haze is -140 to put a spell on the snakes.
Cannons vs Atlas
5:00 on ESPN2
Cannons (+550) have the most efficient offense and most successful offense during the :52 second shot clock. Their passing is crispy. Asher Nolting has ascended from backup singer, watching Lyle Thompson operate, to being on center stage. Midfielder Ryan Drenner, SSDM Bubba Fairman and close defender Jack Kielty have put together all star campaigns. Now (7-3) with a recent 15-11 win over the Whips, are further confirmation of the turnaround season under coach Brian Holman. Fans kept waiting for this team to hit the wall. They never did.
“The story of the year in the PLL has been the Cannons,” says ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra. “In 2022 they finished last and were towards the bottom in almost every major offensive statistical category. Now with the second best record in the league and two of the five (Marcus Holman and Asher Nolting) finalists for PLL MVP, Brian Holman’s Boom Squad has undeniable chemistry and belief.”
Atlas (+1200) shot blanks on Friday night against the Woods falling behind 8-0 while shooting 0-12 with nine turnovers to start the game. They clawed back to make it 10-7 but Cole Kirst and Wes Berg nailed the game shut. Atlas suffer a 12-7 setback in what was a hard hitting game and locks them into the #7 spot at (2-8).
Atlas transition defense has been awful. The offensive middies bail to the box and give up run-outs. Shot selection and field balance are sold separately. The close defense hasn’t been winning matchups and somewhere along the line the Atlas seemingly lost their confidence and swagger. FO kingpin Trevor Baptiste wins virtually every draw and they have little to show for the massive possession advantage.
Have the Atlas forgotten how to win?
ESPN stat guru Russ Dlin has thoughts. “Chris Gray- Jeff Teat (Atlas) vs Asher Nolting- Marcus Holman (Cannons). They are 4 of the top 5 point scorers in the PLL this year – and they face each other in what might be the highest scoring playoff game in PLL history.”
Cannons are -200 to advance.
Archers Bye Week
Archers (+210) lost to the Waterdogs in Salt Lake City in overtime and now get to watch the quarters from Gillette and heal up for the semis at Hofstra on Sunday September 10. Is a week of rest beneficial or detrimental? They’ll play the Chaos / Redwoods winner on Hempstead Turnpike.
Archers have been the most efficient franchise in attacking the goal during the initial :32 shot clock. At the other end, the defense leans on Graeme Hossack to erase the opponents top scoring threat. In person, this team feels fast. Amazing roster restructuring done by coach Chris Bates waving goodbye to Adam Ghitelman, Marcus Holman, Will Manny, Mark McNeil, Dominique Alexander, Scott Ratliff and Frankie Labetti while retooling with rookie SSDMs, Mac O’keefe, a new keeper and rookie FOGO Mike Sisselberger.
Archers goalie Brent Dobson, a second year pro and member of Team Canada, has made clean saves which has led to easy outlets and transition goals. The Archers lead the league in this category of converting clean saves into transition goals. It’s one reason they are enjoyable to watch.
Connor Fields, prior to action in SLC, has hit on 17 of 48 dodging initiations. He’s another reason to watch. They’re running Grant Ament through the midfield, inverting where he’s picked up boatloads of assists. He’s more dangerous as a passer in these scenarios than as a scorer, so be slow to go.
And I haven’t even mentioned the best player in the league, a guy who’s always worth watching, Tom Schreiber. These folks will talk him up. Chris Cotter, Ryan Boyle, Dana Boyle and Charlotte North have the assignment on ESPN+ and ESPN2 under the watchful eye of producer Todd Jones. Coach Bellichick is likely to make a cameo on Rabil row. It’s a Labor Day lacrosse triple-header in New England. Three elimination games that promise to be spirited in a summer that’s down to six remaining playoff games.