The 2019 NLL finals get underway on Saturday night as the Buffalo Bandits host the Calgary Roughnecks for game one of the series.
While this series features two of the more electrifying offenses in the league, one of the more intriguing storylines is the goalie battle that will ensue over the course of this series.
On one side of the floor you have fourteen-year veteran and six-time NLL Goaltender of The Year Matt Vinc in goal for Buffalo, sporing almost every accolade a goalie in this sport could ever earn. On the other side is Christian Del Bianco is in between the pipes for Calgary with pretty much his entire career ahead of him and already chasing some of the best goalies this game has seen.
You can serve it up however you want to. Veteran versus the young gun, past versus future, and much more. The one thing that is for certain is that two of the best goalies in the game are in goal on both ends of the floor and that alone excites fans about what this series could entail.
Matt Vinc is one of the most decorated goalies in the game with his record six NLL Goaltender of The Year awards and more. Vinc is also one of the most experienced players on this Bandits team when it comes to championships and playoff lacrosse in general, having won three championships when he was in Rochester.
He will be able to bring that to the table this series as many of his Bandits teammates hadn’t been to the playoff until this year, let alone the finals. Vinc will be able to continue leading and guiding the younger defensive corp in front of him just like he has done all season.
Numbers-wise, Vinc brings a lot into this series as well. The veteran has had a stellar season, making 705 saves with a .803 save percentage so far this season. This season Vinc ranks third among goalies in saves and is fifth in the league in save percentage, first among starters. In the Eastern Division Final against a tough Toronto offense, he was 43-51 on saves and had a save percentage of .843. Coming off that performance Vinc will be looking to stay hot on Saturday and throughout this series.
Looking at Christian Del Bianco, he is one of the league brightest young stars in just his second season in the NLL. Del Bianco has already made a name for himself as one of the best goalies in the league and he is still growing into his game as well. While he doesn’t have the most experience to offer, his ceiling is extremely high and so is his level of play.
Coming in as a rookie last season and taking the starting job in Calgary was a head turner for sure. While Del Bianco set the foundation for his career last season he has started to solidify himself this season as one of the best in the game. He has been able to show off his talents a lot this season, making the save even when the defense leaves him on an island.
So far this season Del Bianco has made 716 saves which ranks first in the league. He also has a save percentage of .782 this season which puts him in ninth place in the league and fourth among starting goalies. Del Bianco is coming off one of his best performances to date as he went 47-51 on saves with a save percentage of .921 in the Western Division Final against Colorado.
Just the fact that it two of the best goalies in the game will be going against each other in this series changes the game. This series could very well become more defensive heavy than anyone anticipates it will, and still it, would be a very exciting brand of lacrosse to watch.
The first game of the NLL final is on Saturday, May 18th at 7:30pm. Buffalo has home floor advantage as they will host game one and three (If needed) while Calgary host game two.