One of the most fun things to do in sports is look at that schedule when it comes out and work your way through the matchups for your favorite team. That’s a win, that’s a win, that’s a loss, all the way through. You determine the team’s final record on the year within 25 seconds of their schedule being released. It’s been a sports talk classic for years.
At the midway point of the PLL season, it’s time to take a look at each team and play that game a bit. Seven of eight teams make the playoffs, so it’s not a huge push or battle for most of the clubs. The race’s are basically not to finish last, and to make the top four. A top half finish means an invitation to the Championship Series to play some Sixes, which also had a very nice payday for those involved last year.
Let’s take a look at each team, their remaining schedule, and just how hard the next five weekends will be.
Current Record: 4-1
Remaining games, in order: Waterdogs, Atlas, Chrome, Whipsnakes, Waterdogs
Combined current record of remaining opponents: 11-14
The Waterdogs are tied with the Archers with a 4-1 record, the other three teams all have just one win each at the halfway point. Waterdogs to close open and close the second half of the season means both are opportunities to set a tone. Archers can start the second half and get the inside track on the one seed with a win. In the last week of the regular season, the one seed could very much be on the line.
Between those two games, it’s three teams trying to figure things out. The Atlas team defense is very much a work in progress, but if they can sort it out to be serviceable, their offense will take them places. Chrome have struggled to produce on offense, and the Whipsnakes just need to get healthy. By week 9 when the Archers play Whips, the injury report may have finally cleared up, the Whips could start looking like a scary team.
Prediction sure to go wrong: I’m taking the Archers to go 3-2 in the second half. They split with the Waterdogs, drop a game to a healthy and dangerous Whips team, and secure wins over Atlas and Chrome, finishing with a 7-3 regular season record.
Current Record: 1-4
Remaining games, in order: Chrome, Archers, Waterdogs, Cannons, Redwoods
Combined current record of remaining opponents: 15-10
Atlas went 1-4 in the first half with a productive offense but a struggling defense. The reduction in impact from the faceoff position means that even while Trevor Baptiste puts up numbers that would make video game Bo Jackson blush, it’s not translating into Ws, or even hefty possession advantages. The defense needs to get on the same page and play better 6v6, some of that could start with a change in net, as Drake Porter got his first start in Week 5 in Fairfield.
The schedule here isn’t easy. Chrome this week is a borderline must win, as the loser drops solely into last place. If Atlas loses, they have to follow it up with games against the two teams with the best record in the league. Starting the second half 0-3 likely means they can start printing up some Brennan O’Neill jerseys.
Prediction sure to go wrong: I don’t think that happens. I think Atlas perform well in Dallas and get things moving in the right direction. They drop against Archers and Waterdogs, but pull out wins against Cannons and Redwoods, and go 3-2 in the second half, finishing 4-6.
Current Record: 3-2
Remaining games, in order: Redwoods, Waterdogs, Redwoods, Atlas, Whipsnakes
Combined current record of remaining opponents: 12-13
Hard to say anything other than the Cannons first half went about as well as it could. They lost the opener to Archers, which you would expect for such a new group, and then fell to the Chaos in OT. They have since rattled off three straight wins against Atlas and Chrome twice. Of note, that’s three wins against the two worst records in the league, but anyone who was watching can tell you the Cannons looked ready to compete against anyone.
The second half schedule is not easy. Redwoods have an excellent team defense and are on the schedule twice, Waterdogs have just one loss. By Week 10, the Whipsnakes could be healthy and getting hot. And the Atlas as noted have a deadly offense and by Week 9 should be well adjusted to the faceoff prevent.
Prediction sure to go wrong: Cannons stay hot and knock off the Redwoods to start the second half in Dallas. After that things get tougher. Waterdogs keep finding ways to win and beat Cannons, and Redwoods avenge their Week 6 loss in Week 8. As noted above I have them losing to the Atlas in Week 9. Whipsnakes are healthy and squeeze out a win in Week 10. Cannons go 1-4 in the second half, and finish 4-6.
Current Record: 3-2
Remaining games, in order: Whipsnakes, Redwoods, Whipsnakes, Waterdogs, Chrome
Combined current record of remaining opponents: 10-15
Chaos went 3-2 in the first half with wins over Cannons, Archers, and Atlas. Their losses are to the Archers in OT, and the Redwoods in a game where Jack Kelly was unbeatable. Brian Minicus has brought a new dimension to the offense in the form of a true X attackman that is allowed to play like a traditional American might, and is not being pushed to execute box concepts entirely. His ability to win 1v1 has drawn top matchups some weeks, freeing players like Josh Byrne to sometimes not get the top pole, which will always be a mismatch. Dhane Smith is, regardless of where he plays, one of the best passers in the league.
In the second half, the Chaos look to have a favorable schedule record wise. But it’s harder than it might look. The Whips are looking healthy all of a sudden, and that makes them scary. Chaos have to contend with them twice. Waterdogs are pushing for the top overall seed. And the Redwoods already have a win over Chaos. The depth of weapons, and the high level defense backstopped by the best goalie in the world, will give the Chaos a chance to win every game they play. Most years, the Chaos are about peaking late and charging through the playoffs. They might scoot that peak a little earlier this season.
Prediction sure to go wrong: Chaos play by their usual script of playing great late the in the year, and start the upward swing earlier than usual. They beat Whips, Redwoods, and Whips again in three straight. They stumble at year’s end, dropping to Waterdogs and a surprising one to Chrome to close the regular season, but are a team to be feared in the postseason. They finish 6-4.
Current Record: 1-4
Remaining Games, in order: Atlas, Whipsnakes, Archers, Redwoods, Chaos
Combined record of remaining opponents: 12-13
Chrome had a rough first half. They have the fewest scores in the league, the most turnovers in the league, and the worst shooting percentage in the league. The offense has been a bit in flux, with Brendan Nichtern missing the first three games for his military obligations, and players like Dylan Molloy in and out of the lineup. Ultimately, it’s the turnover number that has been a driver of the issues, as Chrome average over 20 per game. Some of that is the result of faceoff changes.
Connor Farrell has had 24% of his touches this year end in a turnover. Teams have stopped dressing faceoff specialists against Chrome, instead opting to use a pole to pressure Farrell and try to force turnovers to happen. This week, Chrome will sit Farrell to see if they can cut their turnovers down. Sitting an All Star faceoff man who’s currently facing off at 70% will raise eyebrows, but as Chrome look to right the ship for the second half, some drastic changes to find flow with consistent possessions is needed.
Prediction sure to go wrong: Chrome have a tough second half. They lose to Atlas in Dallas, Whipsnakes in Baltimore, and then they fall to Archers in Week 8. A close one but a loss to Woods in Week 9, but they end on a win and beat Chaos in Week 10, going 1-4 in the second half and finishing 2-8, but with Brennan O’Neill in their sights.
Current Record: 3-2
Remaining Games, in order: Cannons, Chaos, Cannons, Chrome, Atlas
Combined record of remaining opponents: 11-14
Half the Redwoods team has a firm identity. Their defense plays smart, well organized, sound defense in front of a world class netminder. They slide and support well, they defend on ball well, and they have a DPOY candidate in Garrett Epple at the top of their unit. The other end of the field, however, is a bit in flux. Some roster moves and a new OC have resulted in some growing pains. Sergio Perkovic and Myles Jones haven’t found a comfortable spot to be productive through the first half. Rob Pannell and Ryder Garnsey have been very good, and Charlie Bertrand can reach Midfielder of the Year levels in this scheme.
As the offense finds a flow and identity that it can play with consistently, there will be good weeks and bad weeks. They had a good week against Chaos, with Pannell leading the charge and the Woods scoring 13 goals, ten of which were assisted. They had a bad week against Archers, managing just three goals and playing way too much hero ball. As the second half winds up, the Woods are shuffling the offense a bit to find more flow and consistency.
Prediction sure to go wrong: I have Redwoods dropping their week 6 matchup with Cannons, their Week 7 matchup with Chaos and their last game of the year against Atlas. However, their defense battens down and the offense finds rhythm to get them a win in Week 8, and they beat a floundering Chrome team in Week 9, going 2-3 in the second half and finishing 5-5.
Current Record: 4-1
Remaining Games, in order: Archers, Cannons, Atlas, Chaos, Archers
Combined record of remaining opponents: 15-10
Waterdogs had a 4-1 first half and included multiple games where they, against all odds, found ways to win. Despite a very slow offensive start and Dillon Ward missing, they won in OT week one against a very good, albeit depleted, Chaos team. They played what will become an infamous game against Atlas where they stopped using a faceoff specialist and instead tried to force turnovers and poor possessions, succeeding in doing so, and coming back to beat Atlas 19-18. Their no faceoff specialist strategy has been deployed every week since.
Waterdogs have a deep offense, particularly in the midfield. Even if injuries pop up for them, they have the depth to not skip a beat. Zach Currier, Jack Hannah, Ryan Conrad, Connor Kelly, it’s a group that’s versatile, interchangeable, and all deadly off the dodge. The second half should be the Waterdogs campaign for the one seed. To do it, they’ll be successful against a very difficult schedule. Given the way they keep pulling out wins, it’s tough to bet against that happening.
Prediction sure to go wrong: Waterdogs split with Archers and beat Cannons. Waterdogs also continue to find ways to win, pulling out wins over Atlas and Chaos in tight games. Even up against a tough schedule, they have a 4-1 second half and finish 8-2.
Current Record: 1-4
Remaining games, in order: Chaos, Chrome, Chaos, Archers, Cannons
Combined record of remaining opponents: 14-11
Whips first half went about as badly as it could. Before the draft, Coach Stagnitta stressed a need to add one more dodging threat to the offense to play with Brad Smith, Matt Rambo, and Zed Williams. They drafted Tucker Dordevic, and it looked like Stagnitta got exactly what he needed. But it hasn’t worked out. Brad Smith has missed the first half with a knee issue. Matt Rambo picked up a hand injury in Connecticut. Zed Williams missed week one due to the NLL overlap. The offense has been shuffling, and when teams only get to practice together once a week, inconsistent lineups lead to inconsistent performance, and that’s what happened.
For the first time all year, in Week 6, the Whips will have that big four in the lineup together. Ehrhardt and Dunn are in the lineup. Everyone was listed as questionable, so they may not all be 100%, but they’re all in the lineup together. If the Whips can string together weeks at full strength, their talent is undeniable. With everyone back, they are incredibly hard to match up with. They will miss Kyle Bernlohr for a few more weeks, but Brian Phipps has stepped in for thai team in the past on their way to a title game, and has won a ring in the MLL.
The Whips, if they get rolling, will be scary.
Prediction sure to go wrong: Whips are still on the mend and drop a game to Chaos in Week 6. From there, things get better. They beat Chrome, drop to Chaos again in a nailbiter and then Whips, while healthy and trending up in Week 9, knock off Archers and send a pre playoffs message to the league. Fully healthy, including Bernlohr hopefully, the Whips beat Cannons in Week 10 and are the team nobody wants to play in the postseason. They finish 5-5.