With pool play in the rearview mirror, each team is resting and recovering for a playoff push. Some teams, like Whipsnakes, Archers and Chrome, have a few Is to dot and Ts to cross, while the rest of the field still has some big questions to answer if they want to make a run at the PLL Crown.
First Round Matchup: Chrome LC
Chaos are without a doubt the biggest disappointment of the PLL Championship Series. I’m allowed to say that, since I picked them to win it all. While it is hard to narrow down their myriad issues to an individual problem area, it starts at the stripe with Tommy Kelly. Kelly has had an abysmal series, posting the worst faceoff percentage (he wins just one in three) among players who have taken 40 or more faceoffs.
According to PLL Stats, Chaos have had to defend the most possessions (44.25 possessions per game) and had the least amount of offensive possessions (36.75). Kelly, who has typically dominated the clamp, has only been winning 57 percent of his clamps compared to 75 percent in 2019. When he does win the clamp, he and his wings are on two different pages. According to Greg Gurenlian on The Stripe podcast, his wings have only picked up seven ground balls in their four games. For the Chaos to turn their season around and make a run in the playoffs, Kelly and his wings have to adjust their game plan and improve.
PLL Playoff Key to Victory: Tommy Kelly and wing play on the faceoff
First Round Matchup: Archers LC
Much like Chaos, Atlas don’t have just one glaring issue. Last year’s stalwart, Trevor Baptiste, has struggled, hovering just over 50 percent at the stripe. Along with struggling to gain possession, their defense has again found themselves at the bottom of the league.
However, in order for Atlas to take a run at The Crown, they need attackman Rob Pannell to look like the potential MVP he was supposed to be. Even though he is averaging 2.75 points per game, the Atlas have yet to fully unlock his potential. Pannell is third in the league in assists with eight and Atlas is at its best when they let him operate behind the goal and find their elite shooters all over the field.
PLL Playoff Key to Victory: Rob Pannell
First Round Matchup: Redwoods LC
Waterdogs’ biggest hurdle to overcome in the playoffs is their inability to play four full quarters. In all three of their losses, they have had massive scoring droughts. Against Atlas in their opener, the Dogs were up 10-6 at about the six-minute mark in the third quarter. Between miraculous saves from Jack Concannon and the Waterdogs offense settling for outside shots, they went scoreless for the 18 remaining minutes and lost 11-10.
In their next game against Archers, Waterdogs were out to a 6-3 lead with two minutes left in the first half, but were then held to just one goal for the remainder of the contest. If they can play a full 60 minutes and avoid their scoring droughts, then Waterdogs are real contenders for The Crown.
PLL Playoff Key to Victory: Playing complete games
First Round Matchup: Waterdogs LC
Similarly to Chaos, Redwoods could see a monumental improvement by getting more production at the stripe. However, in order for this team to turn into true contenders, Ryder Garnsey and Matt Kavanagh have to produce more on the offensive end. After the unfortunate departure of Jules Heningburg, the conversation surrounding Redwoods has been how they will replace his production.
Garnsey, who almost stole the Rookie of the Year award away from teammate Tim Troutner due to his explosive second half of the 2019 season, has only two points per game during pool play. His line mate, Kavanagh, who wasn’t available in their fourth and final game of pool play, has had only three goals in the other three games. The Redwoods offense can only rely on Sergio Perkovic’s timely two bombs for so long before they will need consistent output from their two playmakers behind the net.
PLL Playoff Key to Victory: Ryder Garnsey and Matt Kavanagh
First Round Matchup: Atlas LC
What has been advertised as the Big 4 (Marcus Holman, Will Manny, Grant Ament and Tom Schreiber) has been more of a Big 3 this year. Holman, who shot 34.3 percent on 24 assisted goals in 2019, has struggled through group play. He has only scored three goals and is shooting just 20 percent. One would believe that the added attention going to Ament at X would lead to more step down looks for Holman on the righty wing. It hasn’t been the case yet, but if Holman can find his shooting stroke, this already potent offense will find another gear.
PLL Playoff Key to Victory: Marcus Holman
First Round Matchup: Chaos LC
If you don’t know by now, the Chromeback is real. The offense started right where it left off in 2019, averaging 12.5 goals per game through their four games in pool play. The improved defense has been a boon for them as well, as they’ve allowed about two goals fewer per game compared to their 2019 campaign. After stopping a lowly 48 percent of opponent shots in 2019, John Galloway has rebounded to nearly a 60 percent save percentage through group play. The only question for Chrome is if they can continue this high level of play. After winning two of their three one-goal games this year, Chrome looks to have that monkey off their back and now have the confidence to finish close games.
PLL Playoff Key to Victory: Defense’s ability to finish out games
First Round Bye
The defending champions are firing on all cylinders. Between having the odds-on favorite to win MVP in Joe Nardella to the top two leading scorers in newcomer Zed Williams and reigning MVP Matt Rambo, the Shipsnakes look unbeatable. According to Patrick McEwen of Inside Lacrosse (@laxfilmroom), Whipsnakes have the most efficient offense and the biggest possession margin. Put those two things together and you get a lot of goals.
Truly, Whipsnakes do not have any holes. The only thing standing in their way would be injuries to key players like Rambo, Nardella, and Kyle Bernlohr. They have depth at every other position and that makes them primed for another run at The Crown.
PLL Playoff Key to Victory: Maintaining scoring efficiency and domination of the possession game
Who do you think has the best shot at making a run at The Crown? Let us know in the comments or social media (@prolacrossetalk) on Twitter and Instagram.