It is MLL Championship weekend with the semifinals taking place on Friday and the championship on Sunday. Friday’s semifinals get underway with the Chesapeake Bayhawks taking on the Atlanta Blaze in the first semifinal game at 7PM ET. The Denver Outlaws will face the Boston Cannons in the second semifinal at 10PM ET.
With each of the four teams on the same quest to be crowned the 2019 MLL champions, what is one key for each team if they want to make that run?
1. Chesapeake Bayhawks
The Bayhawks come into the MLL playoffs as the number one seed after going 10-6 in the regular season. They will face the Atlanta Blaze in the semifinals on Friday at 7PM ET.
For the Bayhawks to even have a chance at hoisting the Steinfeld Cup they will need almost perfect play from their specialist positions. At the faceoff dot, Kenny Massa comes into the playoffs as the fifth ranked faceoff man in the league with a 55.06 win percentage. Masa has good numbers, but four of the three faceoff men in front of him are also in the playoffs. Massa has struggled at times this season and for the Bayhakws to succeed at all in the playoffs, especially on the offensive end, Massa will need to step up and play his best.
In addition, the Bayhawks’ play in goal also needs to be high quality and consistent. Chesapeake and head coach Dave Cottle has a good problem on his hands with two bona fide starters in Niko Amato and Brian Phipps on the roster. It looks like Amato will get the start as he had been their number one for a majority of the season. However, both guys will need to be read to face the high-powered offenses that each team in the playoff possess.
2. Denver Outlaws
The Denver Outlaws come into the MLL playoff as the number two seed after going 9-7 in the regular season. They will face the Boston Cannons in the semifinals on Friday at 10PM ET.
You could say that Denver has had an up and down season. They started and finished hot, but midway through had a multi-game skid where they looked awful and couldn’t seem to get anything going at all. They will need to keep that energy they finished the regular season with and carry it over into the playoffs, especially on the offensive end of the field.
If Denver’s offense can stay consistent, keep that ball humming, and not force too many shots, this team can certainly repeat as champions. With players like John Grant Jr., Zach Currier leading the charge and rookies such as Chris Aslanian following suit, this offense is deadly and it’s the way they can initiate from up top, the wings, and at behind the cage at X that really makes the difference. They can also be a threat in transition with how well their defense can turn a turnover or a Dillon Ward save into quick offense. So, consistency on offense if the main key for this team to have success in the playoffs.
3. Boston Cannons
The Boston Cannons come into the MLL playoffs as the number three seed after going 9-7 in the regular season. They will face the Denver Outlaws in the semifinals on Friday night at 10PM ET.
After multiple years of being the doormat of the league, Boston is finally back at the top and you could say it is all thanks to this youth movement and the energy they have brought, especially on offense. But in fact this Boston defense is the heart and soul of this team. From Nick Marrocco in cage to short-stick defensive midfielders Zach Goodrich and Matthew Bertrams and LSM Ryland Rees. This defense is big, energetic, aggressive, and can cause trouble for even the most effective offense.
For the Cannons to have any success in the playoff they will have to lean on this defense for support. With James Leary, Justin Pugal, and others leading the charge in front of the cage and young SSDM’s and LSM’s doing the dirty work in between the restraining boxes at the midfield, this defense can and will put the ball on the ground and spark early offense.
4. Atlanta Blaze
The Atlanta Blaze have made it to the MLL playoffs for the first time in franchise history. They come into the playoffs as the four seed after going 8-8 in the regular season and will play the Chesapeake Bayhawks in the semifinals on Friday at 7PM ET.
Atlanta has one of the most electrifying offense in the league, if not the most electric, with Mark Matthews, Bryan Cole, Tommy Palasek, Randy Staats, and multiple others being able to take over on any given night. That offensive depth and firepower has been the backbone of this team, but their defense has not been equally as good for most of the season.
If Atlanta want’s to even have a shot at winning their first playoff game and not lean on rookie faceoff man Alex Woodall and goalie Chris Madalon to keep feeding their offense, the Atlanta defense has to come to play. Led by Liam Byrnes and short-stick defensive midfielder TJ Comizio, Atlanta’s defense has to follow suit from front to back, make timely slides, stay out of the penalty box, and just play as a unit. When this defense puts it all together they are a very good unit, and that needs to happen this weekend more than ever for Atlanta.