From the front office to the fans, it has to be a major relief to know what the playoff picture is actually looking like before the season is over. Unlike last season’s end of the year debacle, with just about every team making a case for why they should be in the postseason, things are getting ironed out before the regular season even wraps up.
Three of the four playoff positions have now been locked up by Ohio, Denver, and Florida. The Machine have earned their trip to their fourth-straight postseason and the Outlaws are joining them for the second year in a row. Florida, on the other hand, will make it onto the semifinals for the first time with the Launch moniker, last making it in 2014 as the Hamilton Nationals. That leaves one remaining spot, and aside from the eliminated Cannons, Blaze and Bayhawks, it’s still anyone’s game.
The top spot is a tug-o-war between the Outlaws and the Machine. While both teams are guaranteed home games with 9 wins under their belts, the race isn’t over yet. Since they split their two games this season, finishing with a tied record would cause an interesting scenario. Because they lead in the points race, Denver can take the pole position with a win over the Bayhawks on Thursday, or if both Ohio and the Outlaws lose. The Machine can swoop in and steal the top seed if they can knock off Rochester on Saturday AND Denver falls short of Chesapeake.
We know, for sure, that Florida is the outright #3. Only Rochester could match the Launch’s record, but they lost the head to head battle. With no games left for the Launch, they are guaranteed that third spot and a road game at either Denver or Ohio.
The final seed is a race to the finish line between New York, Rochester, and Charlotte. Although Chesapeake is 6-7, just like the Lizards and Hounds, there’s no hope left of attending the dance.
Rochester is in control of their own destiny. They have one last home game to make their case, but it won’t be easy. If the Outlaws lose on Thursday, the Machine are going to roll into Rochester ready to lock up that top seed. It’s up to the Rattlers to fight for their lives; they’ve already slipped past Ohio once this season, in OT for Week 3.
New York can slip in if Rochester can’t get the job done and they can top the Hounds. Because the Lizards took down the Rattlers in their only matchup this season, they would get the nod. Since the Hounds and the Lizard drew each other for the final game, if Rochester loses, one of those two will take the final spot. Rochester losing put them at 7-7, the best New York or Charlotte can do. When it comes down to the head-to-head tiebreaker, New York beat both squads in the regular season, meeting each team only once.
That means the hardest path stands in the way of Charlotte. They have to beat New York on the road in the regular season rematch, while banking on Rochester losing. Some stats are working against them. The Hounds currently have the worst shooting percentage and second-worst face-off average in the MLL. On the opposite side of the coin, Charlotte is leading the league in 2-pointers (9) and is slightly ahead of New York and Rochester in goals scored (170). After losing 4 of their first 5 games, the Hounds have stopped the barge and slowly turned it around. The young additions to the roster have brought new air to their lungs and put Charlotte in a solid position to capture a postseason trip for the second season in a row.
Thanks for Playing
We already knew that the Cannons have been eliminated from contention. They didn’t use the opportunity to come in like wrecking balls and bust the dreams of Florida and Charlotte. The Hounds drew first blood on Thursday, breaking off the Cannons, 16-12, before Florida used a mammoth first half to stave off Boston’s late surge and pulled out with a, 18-17, win. Beantown’s finest get one last lap, but for both teams, it’s all for pride.
While Boston can’t climb out of their last place hole, at best finishing 4-10, if Atlanta can win the game, they can take a step up the final rankings. Should the Lizards take a tumble, and the Blaze win, Atlanta will win the head-to-head comparison and actually finish in 7th.
Yeah, that means if New York wins, they can still make the four team playoff. If they lose, it can mean the second to last place in the MLL. Crazy, right? A single win, and the results of two other games can meet the difference of four spots.
Chesapeake can’t be excited to go into Thursday night’s hosting of the Outlaws. Denver is a win, or Ohio loss, away from the #1 seed and you know they are going to want to win to get the load off of their chest before the weekend. If Rochester loses, they tie with Chesapeake and New York/Charlotte at 7-7. The Bayhawks hold no advantage over any of the teams and when it comes to points they’re lacking behind. It’s a tough way to go out, considering three teams will have the same record, but the midseason struggles came back to bite them where it hurts.
Despite being a point behind his rookie season total, Peter Baum is ahead the points total for 2017. If he can collect at least one goal or assist on Saturday, he will tie his career-high of 50 and likely take the title. His totals took a late hike after punching in 6 goals and an assist against the Lizards last weekend, pulling 3 points ahead of Will Manny, Kieran McArdle, and teammate Marcus Holman. His well-rounded play has relied on 31 goals and 18 helpers to hit a high points total, leaving him in 9th for goals and 4th in assists.
Manny has an advantage over the group because of the midseason trade, giving him an extra game this season, assuming he plays this weekend for the Lizards. Already 14 games deep, Manny has racked up 33 goals, tying him for first in goals scored.
Shoulder to shoulder with Manny at 33 goals is Powell Pathfinder Mike Bocklet. Since he came on the scene as a 30 year old rookie, Bocklet has continued to redefine the standards for newcomers and elder statemen. Through two less games, Bocklet has matched Manny and this weekend will decide who pulls out with the title. Right behind them stands McArdle, Holman, and rookie Josh Byrne at 32. McArdle has the weekend off, so he’s not going anywhere, so the four way shootout with Byrne, Holman, Bocklet, and Manny is going to get interesting.
As if he could get any better, the NLL’s Rookie of the Year, Tom Schreiber, is dominating the assist column. He’s atop the MLL with 25, while only playing in 9 of the 13 Machine games. With more parity in the league every year, the leading totals have been dropping as more players are carrying larger loads. That means Schreiber could finish as the assists leader with nearly 10 less than he racked up last season.
Between the pipes, Ohio can consider themselves blessed. Sophomore star Kyle Bernlohr took the starting role away from Scott Rodgers, despite the Big Rig having a coming out party in 2016 and capturing the All-Star Game MVP that season. Bernlohr is leading the starters in lowest GAA (11.35) and save percentage (.567), while Rodgers put up equally strong numbers (10.42, .533) in the four games he got to shine in.
Thursday, July 27th
● Bayhawks 11, Outlaws 12 – OT
● Cannons 12, Hounds 16
Saturday, July 15th
● Launch 18, Cannons 17
● Rattlers 11, Blaze 7
● Lizards 14, Machine 21
Thursday, August 3rd
● Outlaws @ Bayhawks – 7:30pm, Navy-Marine Corp Stadium
Saturday, August 5th
● Blaze @ Cannons – 6pm, Harvard Stadium
● Machine @ Rattlers – 7pm, Capelli Stadium
● Hounds @ Lizards – 7pm, Shuart Stadium