Because we live in such wonderful times, if you’re so inclined and in a state that allows it, you can head on over to Draft Kings and place a bet on this weekend’s Premier Lacrosse League Championship Series opening day of games. Two games, viewable on NBC then NBCSN Saturday and NBC on Sunday, are available for your viewing and gambling pleasure. Let’s take a look at each game, the odds, and what your bet should be.
Note: All lines have been taken from DraftKings Sportsbook
4PM EST on NBC: Redwoods vs Whipsnakes (-1.5) O/U 23.5
A championship rematch to start the season off, and honestly it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see these two teams play for the title again. The Whipsnakes lost a ton of firepower to the Waterdogs in the expansion draft, but had a stable of underutilized players who will now get a chance to shine. They also added Zed Williams, who is as good a goal scorer as you’ll find in the pro game. They return league MVP Matt Rambo, along with one of the best defenses in the league. The Woods roster has some new faces as well, most notably Myles Jones, acquired in a trade with the Chaos. The Woods strength is their defense and the versatility and athleticism of their midfield. You’ll see Tyler Dunn with a pole. You’ll see Nick Ossello and Kyle Harrison take faceoffs. You’ll see Sergio Perkovic and Myles Jones on defense. The amount of two way horses on this team is what makes them such a strong contender, along with returning a DPOY candidate in Garrett Epple.
The Case for the Favorite:
The Whips and Redwoods split the regular season series last year, but their second game was the most severe beating of the year: a 17-4 drubbing of the Woods. The Whips got points from 10 players on the roster, and seven of those players are still on the roster and traveled to Utah. 14 of the Whips 17 goals were assisted, and they didn’t even score on just one man up opportunity. Fans got a glimpse of just how deadly this team was when it all clicks.
The Whipsnakes now have the target on their back, but the same could have been said last year. They started the season 4-0 and emerged early as a contender. The Redwoods team they dismantled got goals that day from Jules Heningburg, Wes Berg, and Sergio Salcido, all of whom are on other rosters or unavailable this summer. The Whips also likely have an advantage on faceoffs, as Joe Nardella is back for the Whips but Greg Gurenlian has retired, leaving the Woods with rookie Peyton Smith and entry draftee Greg Puskuldjian. Extra possessions, a top level defense, and the league MVP are tough to bet against.
The Case for the Underdog:
The Redwoods are afraid of nobody and probably won’t be an underdog too many times this year. In fact, I’d make the case week one that the only team they wouldn’t be favored against is the Whips. Despite taking that brutal beating in Week 9 last year, this was also the team that handed the Whips their first loss of the season in Week 5. You could also say the Redwoods seem to have been angry since they lost that game to the Whipsnakes, with their margin of victory in the games that followed being an 11 goal win over Chrome, a 5 goal win over playoff one-seed Chaos, a four goal win over Archers, and then ultimately an overtime loss to Whips in the title game.
The Redwoods really came into their own late in the season as Sergio Perkovic found a rhythm and mid season acquisition Jules Heningburg gelled with the offense. But really, the case for the Woods is that their offseason additions made their strengths stronger, and there really is nowhere to look in terms of scheming to take someone away. Even with Heningburg out for the summer, this group can lean on a number of guys to pressure a defense.
The Bet: Redwoods. Roster turnover on the offensive end has the Whips stumble out of the gate, and Woods take advantage for an opening game outright win. For the Over/Under, these teams played three times last year, and the average goal total was just 23. With the defenses as strong as they are and the offenses making some adjustments to different personnel, I’m inclined to take the under.
7:30PM EST on NBCSN: Chaos (-1.5) vs Chrome O/U 29.5
Not exactly a ton of value to be had in this line. Chaos finished the regular season last year as the top overall seed, bulldozing their way past teams. Jarrod Neumann won DPOY, probably primarily due to his hitting the second most two pointers in the league last year. Chaos slowed down considerably as the playoffs hit, finally petering out against the Redwoods in a game where their transition was stymied and Matt Landis was able to shut out Connor Fields. The Chrome had a tough start to last season, losing their first five games by a combined six goals. With a 1-6 record they had a goal differential of zero. This was a good time that just couldn’t end up on the right side of one goal games. They got a serious makeover in the offseason and have some buzz as a team that might surprise people.
The Case for the Favorite:
Chaos LC, for a team that won 7 games in the regular season last year, aren’t thought of all that highly coming into the season. The chatter is that by the end of the last year, there was enough scout/tape to figure out what they wanted to do and stop them. Limit transition, find poles and two point threats in the open field, limit opportunities for Connor Fields in the 6v6 and you would probably be in the game at a minimum. Doing those things isn’t exactly easy, but the Redwoods showed what can happen if you hit that formula right. That said, this Chaos team, even though they bring back most of the roster, is a different group.
They acquired Sergio Salcido from the Redwoods, giving them another versatile dodging option. He’ll be on a line with Jake Froccaro, leaving teams a tough decision on who to pole. Coach Andy Towers could feasibly run Curtis Dickson, who missed last season, out of the box as well, or others from their deep attack group including Austin Staats or Josh Byrne. Point is, the Chaos could show up on Saturday with an entirely new formula for success, and someone showing up planning to stop the two and Connor Fields may find themselves overrun by a new-style Chaos group.
The Case for the Underdog:
The Waterdogs may be doing the whole “every game is a revenge game” bit, but this Chrome group has something to prove. To the observer who just looked at the W/L record and maybe not much further, this team was the worst in the league. But dig a little deeper, folks. The league’s second highest scoring attackman Justin Guterding, the league’s second highest scoring midfielder in Ned Crotty, and the league’s third best faceoff man in Connor Farrell are all on the Chrome, and we haven’t even acknowledged Jordan Wolf and John Ranagan yet.
This team also added an excellent off ball piece by acquiring Matt Gaudet from the Chaos shortly after the college draft. Gaudet can play at attack with Guterding and Wolf and cause all sorts of problems. The Chrome offense will be just fine. The defense is almost totally a rebuild handled by new head coach Tim Soudan. John Galloway is still in the cage, but the group in front of him will be quite different from last year, and unfortunately Joel White did not make the trip to Utah. Recall that last year, the Chrome finally got their first win in week 6, and they did it by absolutely steamrolling the Chaos 19-11. The Chrome will be on the right side of more games this season and will be looking to announce that in game one.
The Bet: Chrome. The underdog has a decent shot to win this one outright. If they can get shots by the formidable goalie tandem that the Chaos have, the Chrome can get off to a good start with a win. The O/U at 29.5 is interesting and screams under to me as well. The Chaos goal totals in their last three games last year were 7, 7, and 9. They were struggling at the end of the year. Chrome was in the same boat, ending the year cracking double digits just once in their last three games. On the whole, there were a total of six games out of 40 last year that cracked 30 total goals. Teams may come out hot, but not that hot. Under.
4PM EST on NBC: Atlas (-1.5) vs Waterdogs O/U 28.5
The expansion Waterdogs take on what is arguably the most star-studded roster in the league, and they do it on NBC on Sunday afternoon. That’s certainly an exciting way for the new club to start the year. The Waterdogs come into the season saying “every game is a revenge game”, as they’re made up of players who went unprotected and will be looking to show their former teams that that was a mistake. They also added Zach Currier, the best two way middie in the sport, in the entry draft. They are built for versatility, with two way middies abound, poles that can play down low or at LSM, and attackmen that can run out of the box.
The shorter field and shorter clock showed us in year one that this can be a winning formula, and a roster that can’t do at least some of these things will suffer. For the Atlas, it’s about living up to the hype. A team picked by many as the favorite in year one sputtered a bit through the season, finishing a disappointing 5-5. They added Rob Pannell in the entry draft, and second overall college draft pick Bryan Costabile, along with some more defensive weapons like Craig Chick. They also sport the league’s best faceoff specialist, Trevor Baptiste. All the pieces are in place if new head coach Ben Rubeor can get this orchestra to play in harmony.
The Case for the Favorite:
The Atlas are good everywhere. They’ll be missing Tucker Durkin due to a positive COVID-19 test that’ll keep him out of the bubble until adequate quarantine and negative testing takes place, so the defense will have to look elsewhere for leadership down low. Frankly, the best defense they have might be the guy taking faceoffs. Trevor Baptiste was best in the league last year, winning north of 60% of his draws. The Waterdogs will send out Drew Simoneau, who backed up Connor Farrell on the Chrome, and Jake Withers, who wasn’t in the league a year ago. If neither of them can slow down Baptiste, it’ll be a long day for the Waterdogs.
Extra possessions for Rob Pannell, Paul Rabil, Eric Law, Ryan Brown, Connor Buczek, and a stable of others on offense will pressure the Waterdogs all day. The Waterdogs also are a team that is forced to find their chemistry and identity quickly, as they didn’t exist a year ago, even though the majority of the roster was in the league. Training camp is critical for them, but it’s tough to see the expansion group coming out of the gate with a win over a team as loaded as the Atlas.
The Case for the Underdog:
As good as that Atlas roster is on paper, it just didn’t translate to the field last year. It was a roller coaster for the Bulls, who never won or lost more than two in a row. At times, the Atlas looked every part the world beaters we thought they’d be. They smashed the Chrome in the opening game of the losers bracket of playoff weekend, 17-8, even with a bad day by Baptiste standards. Other times, not so much. They lost their last game of the year 25-7 to the Archers, and looked very much ready for the season to be over. The Atlas have a new head coach to try and elevate this group to a more consistent level of play.
The Waterdogs, meanwhile, don’t exactly have a weak roster. The aforementioned Currier will be everywhere, and expansion got them offensive weapons like Ben Reeves, Connor Kelly, Drew Snider, and Ryan Drenner all from the Whipsnakes. If the Waterdogs can use their exceptional poles like Ryland Rees and Noah Richard to make a mess of faceoffs, or even steal some ground balls, they can level the playing field and neutralize Atlas’s biggest strength.
The Bet: Atlas. Betting against Trevor Baptiste doesn’t work out often. In the end, he gets the ball back to this offense too many times and the Waterdogs come up short. The O/U here seems high for me as well. Like I said for the previous game, the total goals only got up to 30 a handful of times last season. The Atlas only hit 8 twos last season from six players, one of them being Baptiste (don’t count on a ton of those). Another was from Noah Richard, now a Waterdog, and the only other Waterdog player to hit one was Ryan Drenner. Unless Romar Dennis can hit a couple, there won’t be much in the way of two bombs, and I don’t think this one gets track meet-ish enough to get to 29 goals. Can’t believe I’m taking it for all three games, but under.