Blogs and Commentary



 
posted 04.17.2013 at 3.24 p.m. by Neil Stevens

NLL Week 16: Playoff Race Comes Down to Wire

Rochester, Buffalo and Colorado will be trying to avoid being the only team to miss the playoffs when the regular season ends with four games Saturday night.

ROCHESTER (7-8) AT BUFFALO (6-9), 7:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network, YouTube.com/TLN outside North America

A Rochester win means a second-place finish in the East and a home playoff game. If the Knighthawks lose and Colorado upsets Minnesota, they are eliminated.

''It's going to be a huge battle,'' said Rochester coach Mike Hasen, whose club is coming off a split in Alberta.

Buffalo stayed alive with a 15-10 win at Washington last Saturday. It is into the playoffs with a win and is eliminated with a loss. A win combined with a Philadelphia loss in Washington gives the Bandits second place and a home playoff date.

''You win, you're in, that's the bottom line,'' forward Shawn Williams said during the league's weekly conference call Wednesday. ''Where you play the next weekend, nobody cares, to be honest. Everybody just wants to get in.''

Rochester won two of the three previous meetings.

''We go in there and play the way we know we can play, we should have a good outcome,'' said Knighthawks forward Mike Accursi. ''It's one of those games as a lacrosse player you always want to be part of — a big-time game. Our playoffs start Saturday night. Hopefully it's going to be one of those contests people talk about for a while.''

The Bandits have struggled at home, going 2-5.

''If things go our way, we could have a home playoff game after this crazy year,'' said assistant coach Rich Kilgour.

Backup goalie Kurtis Wagar got the win last weekend as No. 1 Bandits goalie Anthony Cosmo sat on the end of the bench. He'd banged his head in the previous game. Cosmo took some shots during practice Tuesday.

''It's really still up in the air,'' Kilgour replied when asked to clarify Cosmo's status. ''Come Saturday, we'll have our shootaround and see how he feels.''

COLORADO (6-9) AT MINNESOTA (7-8), 8 p.m. ET, YouTube.com/TLN

Minnesota clinched a playoff berth by winning four of its last five including a 17-12 win in Denver last Saturday.

''We knew there was a lot on the line in terms of playoff implications,'' said Minnesota's Alex Crepinsek.

Swarm transition player Jordan MacIntosh has been outstanding the last few weeks.

''He's had a really hot stick,'' said assistant coach Aime Caines.

Colorado clinches a playoff spot with a win. It could still get in if it loses and Buffalo loses to Rochester. But a loss in St. Paul combined with a Buffalo win would make the 2013 Mammoth extinct.

''Being beat by this same team in our own building gives us incentive to win this one,'' said Mammoth captain Gavin Prout. ''There's something very, very big for us on the line in this particular game and that gives us even more incentive to go out there and have a good game.''

Emotions ran high when Mammoth star John Grant Jr. was assessed a major penalty for high-sticking David Earl as time expired last Saturday.

''I don't see anything carrying over,'' said Mammoth coach Bob Hamley.

Ditto on the Swarm side.

''You don't want to lose anyone for the playoffs,'' said Caines.

CALGARY (8-7) AT EDMONTON (9-6), 9 p.m. ET, Sportsnet One, YouTube.com/TLN

A win gives Edmonton first place overall and home floor as far as it goes in the playoffs.

''It would be a great achievement for us personally as well as the organization but we have to treat it like any other game,'' said Rush goalie Aaron Bold. ''We just have to go out there and play our game.''

Calgary leads the season series 2-1 and finishes first in the West with a third win over the Rush.

''We've been getting better every week and we're eager to go up to Edmonton,'' said coach Curt Malawsky.

Calgary faceoff specialist Geoff Snider said losing to Edmonton in the last meeting doesn't factor into this one.

''You have to have a short memory in this league,'' Snider said. ''We're going to go out there a just worry about us.''

Rush GM-coach Derek Keenan is well aware that Calgary has a potent power play, although it might not be quite as formidable should Dane Dobbie not be able to play after hurting his right leg last weekend.

''We want to be disciplined and stay out of the penalty box,'' said Keenan.

Calgary's Shawn Evans will wrap up the scoring title.

''He's been our floor general,'' said Malawsky. ''He just makes everyone around him better. He's been great.''

Edmonton could finish as low as third in the West should it lose.

''The whole thing is anybody's to win,'' Keenan said of the Champion's Cup scenario.

PHILADELPHIA (7-8) AT WASHINGTON (8-7), 10 p.m. ET, YouTube.com/TLN

Washington gets a home playoff game with a win but that is far from certain given its poor showing in a 15-10 home loss to Buffalo last Saturday.

''It comes down to playing a full 60 minutes, which we've been lacking in this year,'' said captain Kyle Sorensen.

''We've got things to work on, obviously,'' said coach Chris Hall, adding that a home playoff date is a big lure.

Philadelphia clinched when it beat Toronto 10-9 in OT last Saturday thanks to goalie Brandon Miller and a Jordan Hall overtime goal. The Wings still have a shot at a home playoff date.

''Our team is not 100 per cent healthy but we're as close to 100 per cent as we've been in some time,'' said Wings owner Mike French. ''You can't predict wins or losses in this league and I don't even try. We're hoping we get the same kind of effort we had last Saturday.''

Wings players Paul Rabil and Kyle Hartzell used to play for the Stealth.

''I'm sure they'll have a little bit of a chip on their shoulders coming in here,'' said Sorensen.

Echoing Keenan's comments on competitiveness, French said it has become difficult to find any distance between the cellar and the penthouse in the NLL.

''Goaltending, playing 60 minutes and luck are very important,'' said French. ''I've not seen anything like it. It's really unpredictable.''

BYE: TORONTO (10-6). The Rock will be hoping Calgary upends Edmonton. If that happens, they'll finish first overall and be home for as far as they go in the playoffs.