The 2021 PLL Championship is nearly here. It will either be a Whipsnakes three-peat and continuation of the only status quo the PLL has ever known, or it will be the Chaos exacting revenge from the 2020 championship and claiming their first-ever league crown.
The margins are fine, and the matchups will be a massive determinant in which team walks away with smiles and cheers. Taking a look at the advanced statistics via Winston Analytica, I’ve discovered the head-to-head battles and areas on the field that have the best chance of impacting the outcome of the 2021 PLL Championship.
It’s Whipsnakes and Chaos again for all the marbles. Who will have the edge?
2021 PLL Championship: Who Will Have the Edge?
Zed Williams (4.335 goals added, 25 goals created by the dodge)/Matt Rambo (19 goals created by the dodge) vs. Jarrod Neumann/Jack Rowlett (6 goals allowed by the dodge/two-man game each)
People believe the show is the box-style offense, but the defense has been doing its job just as well as of late. Jack Rowlett and Jarrod Neumann are a physical combo that will matchup will to Matt Rambo’s physical dodging style. I think Rowlett and Neumann are physical enough to slow down Rambo, maybe even hold him to a single goal.
But I also don’t believe there is a defense alive that can stop Zedzilla. It just doesn’t seem to matter who guards him, especially in the playoffs. I expect him to feast in the PLL Championship, per usual.
Joe Nardella (10.81 goals added by possessions) vs. Max Adler (.46 goals added by possessions)
Max Adler is improving, but Joe Nardella is the third-best faceoff specialist in the game right now, and this doesn’t even factor in his ability to create transition opportunities. I expect Nardella to go just south of 60% on faceoff wins in the PLL championship.
Josh Byrne (-2.56 goals added, 21 goals created by the dodge) vs. Matt Dunn (13 goals allowed by the dodge/two-man game)
Josh Byrne is not the one shooting efficiently on Chaos, but he is the team’s best initiator. The Whips have a solid defense, but the most exploited pole is Matt Dunn. This is mainly due to volume and the matchups he sees. However, other defenders in similar positions fair much better (Rowlett and Neumann combined have allowed fewer goals by the dodge than Matt Dunn).
Key Player: Blaze Riorden
It’s rare that the most important player isn’t at the faceoff X or playing attack, but the 2021 PLL Championship is an exception. We discontinued our goalie analytic, because tracking every shot manually is too exhausting, but in 2019, Blaze Riorden prevented 10.14 goals more than the average goalie based on our model, factoring in shot location. The next-closest goalie prevented 6.34! That was also a season where he was saving only 55%, and he’s now saving 61%!
Riorden is doing better now than in the year where he was by far the best goalie, so what does that tell you about his influence on games in 2021?
Wayne Winston’s Spreadsheet Picks
Chaos 12, Whipsnakes 11 – 55% win probability for Chaos
Note: This doesn’t factor in poor performance during Rambo’s absence.
Whipsnakes 13, Chaos 11
Both these teams are clicking at the right time, and it’s hard to pick either of them to lose. However, I’m not one to bet against something that hasn’t happened in three years. The Whipsnakes haven’t lost a playoff game in nearly three full PLL playoffs, and I don’t want to pick against that trend for the 2021 championship.