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NLL Weekend Primer, Quarterfinals

It took every last game on the schedule, but we’ve got an NLL playoff bracket set. Eight teams will now battle through some May Madness to take home the title. Rochester snuck into the field when they won the literal last game of the regular season, capping a weekend that saw them get the exact six results they needed to make the playoffs. Two wins, exactly four other teams to lose, and it all came to be for the Hawks. Their reward is a date with the top seed. In this first year of unified standings and playoffs, the bracket is a doozy. Here’s the matchups for the first weekend of the playoffs. These games are all single elimination, while the semis and finals are best of three. 


TORONTO ROCK (1) VS ROCHESTER KNIGHTHAWKS(8)


When: Saturday, April 27. 4:30pm EDT.

Where: FirstOntario Centre, Toronto

How to Watch: TSN, TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Toronto favored by three, game total set at 23.5


The Pick:


These two met on April 13, with Toronto coming away with a 13-6 victory. In terms of recent form, Toronto won four straight to close the regular season. Rochester, as noted, dug deep on the last weekend of the regular season, winning back to back games just to get themselves into the playoffs. Rochester, for being a team defined by offense all year, got into the playoffs with some outstanding play on defense. Their back end gave up just three goals to Philly in playoff clinching game. Rylan Hartley’s return has been a massive boost to this team. The Hawks have had no issues scoring this year. Connor Fields, Ryan Smith, and Ryan Lanchbury are a tremendous trio, and Thomas McConvey could be in the Rookie of the Year discussion. Hartley’s play could point towards a potential goalie war here. Nick Rose won the NLL goalie triple crown. He led the league in wins, save percentage, and goals against, while making 711 saves which was behind only Zach Higgins and Christian Del Bianco. A game that comes down to defense favors Toronto for sure. They have the best defensive unit for my money inthe league, and are excellent going D to O. The three goal spread is big, but I think the Rock are a team of destiny this year. I’ll take Toronto. 



BUFFALO BANDITS (4) VS GEORGIA SWARM (5)


When: Saturday, April 27. 7:00pm EDT.

Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo

How to Watch: ESPNU, TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Buffalo favored by 1.5, game total set at 23.5


The Pick:


Buffalo won four straight to end the season, and six of their last seven. Connor Farrell and Paul Dawson have been outstanding additions. That run includes wins over some bottom feeders, but a win over the Rock too. The real edge Buffalo has here is that they’re at home. Banditland will be rocking, possibly even with a sellout crowd, but you can count on a massive gate. They sold out the regular season finale and were 19,000+ strong, wouldn’t be surprised for that to be the case again. Can Georgia overcome that? They did once already this season. Georgia went into Banditland and won a 9-8 in front of a crowd of nearly 17,000 back in December. The Swarm were in pretty good form down the stretch, winning four of their last six. There is some great balance to the Georgia offense. Three different players with 80+ points, five with 50+. Only three other NLL teams had three separate 80+ point scorers this year. Buffalo has the leagues leading scorer (Josh Byrne) and the only man in history to record 100 assists in a season (Dhane Smith). It’s a lot to handle. I don’t think we’ll have another 9-8 game on our hands. This is the game I’m most excited for this week. It’ll be a crazy atmosphere, top tier talent for both squads at every position, and has some sneaky upset potential. I’m going to take Georgia and the over. 


SAN DIEGO SEALS (2) VS PANTHER CITY LACROSSE CLUB (7)


When: Saturday, April 27. 10:00pm EDT

Where: Pechanga Arena, San Diego

How to Watch: TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: San Diego favored by 2.5, game total set at 22.5


The Pick:


Panther City is in a rough spot as they had to put Jonathan Donville on IR with an upper body injury before this game. Donville had 79 points this year ,he was third on the team in scoring. He’s key weapon on the ride side of the PCLC offense. Going without him means their second highest assist scorer this year isn’t in the lineup. It ups the pressure on guys like Will Malcom and Callum Crawford to carry the load on offense, but it also ups the pressure on the defense. Without Donville, PCLC can’t shoot their way back into the game. PCLC has played San Diego twice this year, and the Seals won both meetings. In the first game, PCLC netminder was at 85.5%, and surrendered just 10 goals. The second game, more recently on April 5th, saw Damude give up 14 and at 74.1%. Panther City, to pull off the upset, needs the Damude from game one, and will need some big moments from guys like Jason Knox and Phil Caputo to pick up the scoring without Donville. Is it possible? Sure. But I won’t bet on it. I’ll take San Diego to cover, and the under. 


ALBANY FIREWOLVES (3) VS HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS (6)


When: Sunday, April 28. 3:00pm EDT.

Where: MVP Arena, Albany

How to Watch: ESPNU, TSN+, ESPN+

The Spread: Halifax favored by 1.5, game total set at 23.5


The Pick:


These teams met once this year, it was way back in January. Back then. We were still figuring out that Albany is, in fact, for real, as they beat the Birds at home. But that feels like ancient history at this point. Albany found their familiar rhythm in the last game of the regular season and put up 16 goals against New York, but make no mistake, their recent form has not been great. They lost five in a row before that. Four of those were .500ish teams, at best, at the time of the games, and the offense struggled mightily. Halifax closed the season with a win over Colorado, but have been a bit up and down in the back half of they didn’t win, or lose, two games in a row from Week 15 through the end of the year. Their losses in that stretch are a bit telling. San Diego, Toronto, and a red hot Vancouver team, all on the road. They are 4-5 on the road this year, and three of those four are against non-playoff teams, the 4th is Rochester who snuck in. This will be the most popular game to pick for the “lower seed wins” upset seekers. Albany is +1.5, but the value is awful at -145. Albany’s recent form scares me a bit too much, and young teams can show their inexperience in the playoffs. I’ll take the battle tested and experience of the Birds and pick Halifax, and the under. 


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