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NLL Weekend Primer: Playoff Scenarios

It’s the last week of the NLL regular season, we’re going a little bit of different route this week. Rather than break down all the matchups, we’ll focus on five key teams. 


Right now, there are six spots locked for the playoffs. Toronto, San Diego, Albany, Georgia, Buffalo, and Halifax are all postseason bound. Toronto has locked the one seed and San Diego the two, but the other seeding can still shuffle. Those six are in the playoffs. On the flip side, Las Vegas, Colorado, Philadelphia, and Calgary are done. They are too far back with not enough games.


That leaves five teams. Panther City, Vancouver, Saskatchewan, Rochester, and New York. Two of those teams will keep playing after this weekend, three will instead start getting ready for summer box or PLL play. Panther City sits at 9-8, the other three are 8-9. Rochester has six wins, but with the double header this weekend, they mathematically have a chance. Thanks to the records being so tight, and tiebreaker scenarios likely coming into play, you need a quantum physics degree to figure out how this can all shake out. 


I don’t have one of those, but I do have very useful tools like NLLStats.com and Tymerlacrosse.com to help me with records and stats, which is the next best thing. Here’s the path to the postseason for everyone who can still make it. 


VANCOUVER WARRIORS (8-9)


Opponent: San Diego Seals (12-5)

When: Friday, April 19. 10:00pm EDT.

Where: Pechanga Arena, San Diego

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+


The Scenarios:


A Warriors team that was 2-8 after 10 games has a path to the playoffs on the final weekend of the season. What a ride it has been for them. And their fans have rewarded it, the crowds in Vancouver have been solid. The Warriors are the hottest team in lacrosse. But this is a tough matchup for them, going on the road against a title contender. To make the playoffs, Vancouver’s path:

  • Vancouver wins AND Colorado beats Halifax puts the Warriors in the playoffs

  • Vancouver loses, and all of Saskatchewan, New York, Calgary, and Rochester lose. Rochester can split, they need to lose at least one game this weekend though. If all that happens, Vancouver is in the playoffs.

  • Vancouver wins AND Halifax beats Colorado. If this happens it gets complicated. With those two wins, Vancouver then needs Saskatchewan to lose, Panther City to lose, and Albany to lose; OR; they need Saskatchewan to lose and Panther City to win. That puts Vancouver in the playoffs. 


That’s a lot to deal with. Like for all the teams, life is easier if Vancouver wins. A loss means they need four other exact results. A win and a Halifax win makes it complicated, but not quite as specific as a loss would. San Diego didn’t play well a week ago, they lost an ugly, sort of unfocused game against Saskatchewan. Catching a team off a poor performance, in a game that cannot at all change their seed, could be good for Vancouver. If San Diego takes it as an opportunity to get some guys healthy, recover, and just get through the game, it opens the door to that Warriors win. On the road in San Diego isn’t always easy. 


Of note, the last game of the weekend is Rochester and Philly on Sunday afternoon. If Rochester wins on Friday night, that Sunday contest could feasibly be the result that sends some teams to the postseason. It may come down to the last game of the regular season. 


NEW YORK RIPTIDE (8-9)


Opponent: Albany Firewolves (10-7)

When: Saturday, April 20. 7:30pm EDT

Where: Nassau Coliseum, Long Island

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+


The Scenarios:


The Riptide need one of two things to happen:

  • Vancouver, Panther City, Saskatchewan and Rochester ALL lose their games. Rochester just has to lose one of their two games this weekend.

  • New York wins, Vancouver loses, and either Panther City OR Toronto win


That’s the Riptide path. Obviously the path where they win is the one they’d prefer, and it’s the one with fewer conditions they need to go right. New York losing means they need four other exact losing outcomes to make the playoffs. Additional context, Albany is ice cold. ICE cold. They haven’t won since March 8th, and the schedule hasn’t been all that difficult. New York gets to play at home against a team that’s basically backing into the playoffs. Urgency against a team that might be a little shook is important. Albany is also young, and there’s a saying that young teams play young in the playoffs. More mistakes, harder to manage the high leverage swings.


The other matchups around the league probably work to New York’s favor. This is the NLL, the favorites don’t always win. But the teams that New York need to lose all have difficult matchups. Vancouver visits San Diego, and the Rush host Toronto. That helps, at least on paper, their cause a bit. Like Vancouver, it’s possible New York’s fate isn’t decided until after the last game of the weekend, the Hawks/Wings game on Sunday. 


PANTHER CITY LACROSSE CLUB (9-8)


Opponent: Calgary Roughnecks (7-10)

When: Saturday, April 20. 9:00pm EDT

Where: WestJet Field at ScotiaBank Saddledome

How to Watch: TSN, TSN+, ESPN+


The Scenarios:


Panther City is a win ahead of the other three, so they are in the best position heading into the week. To make if official, Panther City needs ANY of these to happen:

  • Win their game

  • Halifax beats Colorado

  • Toronto beats Saskatchewan

  • New York and Vancouver have the same result (both win, or both lose)


Any of those things happening puts Panther City in the playoffs. They have one super easy path, just win their game. Eliminate all that other watching of games and needing of results, and win on the road Saturday night. In that sense, PCLC is in the most enviable position. They’ll know Vancouver’s result before they play their game, because Vancouver is Friday night, but since they play at the same time as New York, they won’t know if that exact scenario puts them in or not until after they play anyway. PCLC has, in terms of opponents, the best matchup of these four all weekend. Calgary is out of the playoffs, the other three are playing against teams that are already in. Is that an advantage? Does it matter at all? Having nothing left but the chance to ending someone else’s season is a powerful motivator, and Calgary has that. And PCLC has to make the trip to Calgary for this game.


SASKATCHEWAN RUSH (8-9)


Opponent: Toronto Rock (14-3)

When: Saturday, April 20. 9:00pm EDT

Where: Sasktel Centre, Saskatchewan

How to Watch: TSN, TSN+, ESPN+


The Scenarios:


For the rush, it starts with beating Toronto. That’s the hard part. It’s on their home floor, so hopefully they get a good crowd out to support them and push them towards a win. If they lose to Toronto, they’re done. No scenarios put an eight win Rush team in the playoffs. 


The Rush make the postseason if, along with winning their game, one of these things happens:

  • Vancouver and New York lose

  • Vancouver and Panther City lose

  • Colorado and New York lose

  • Colorado and Panther City lose

  • New York and Panther City lose


Saskatchewan has a tall task. Every desired outcome opening with “beat the best team in the league” is rough. As we said with Vancouver, it’s possible Toronto takes it easy. They are locked into the 1 seed, cannot move, so they may choose to get players healthy and make sure they’re in a good place for the playoffs. If Toronto dials it back, it opens the door for the Rush. Saskatchewan has won two in a row, but has yet to have a three game win streak this year. This is the first meeting of the year between the two teams, so no previous matchup data to go on. It’s a playoff game for the Rush, in their building, they’ll need to be at their very best. 


ROCHESTER KNIGHTHAWKS (6-10)


Opponents: Georgia Swarm, Philadelphia Wings

When: Friday, April 19. Sunday, April 21, 3:00pm EDT.

Where: Gas South Arena, Georgia; Blue Cross Arena, Rochester

How to Watch: Both games available on TSN+ and ESPN+


The Scenarios:


For Rochester, it’s pretty simple.  They need to win both games this weekend, and they need everyone else with eight wins to lose. In this case, everyone else means Saskatchewan, Vancouver, and New York. If exactly that and only that happens, Rochester finishes in the eight spot and makes the playoffs. 


The Hawks recent form is not great, they’ve lost their last four. The schedule hasn’t been easy, but it’s tough to go from a four game skid to a two game turn win streak at the drop of a hat. But if anyone can do it, I guess it’s Rochester. They started the year with three straight wins, then lost six straight, then won three straight. Losing the last two to make it win three, lose six, win three, lose six, would be nice and balanced, but that’s not really how pro sports goes that often is it. 


Rochester lost to Georgia way back in February in a tight one, and hasn’t played Philly yet this year. They’ve been all about offense and scoring in bunches. That’s good for a matchup with Philly, the Wings defense has been suspect and leans on good goalie play from Zach Higgins. Georgia, less so, their defense is better and they also have a very good goalie. The last game on Sunday could be a shootout that determines the fate of multiple NLL teams, and I don’t think there’s any more fun way to close the regular season.


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