The 2020 Premier Lacrosse League Elimination Round kicks off later today. This will be the second year that the PLL crowns a champion, with the Whipsnakes taking the title last year. Here are my picks for who will advance through the single-elimination playoffs and claim the championship.
Elimination Game 1: #5 Waterdogs over #4 Redwoods
This will be the hardest game to predict in the entire playoffs because of how evenly matched these two teams are. The Redwoods and Waterdogs finished the qualifying campaign with the same number of scores (39), scores against (42), assists (18), and nearly identical totals for turnovers caused (46 and 45 respectively). Overall, I like the Waterdogs to eke this one out due to their advantages in faceoff percentage (29% higher) and penalty kill percentage (35% higher). The Redwoods can make things interesting through long-range threat Sergio Perkovic, easily the season leader in 2-point goals with six over four games. Look for the Waterdogs to close the deal behind clutch defense and top-5 PLL scorer Kieran McArdle.
Elimination Game 2: #3 Archers over #6 Atlas
The Archers and Atlas played each other in the qualifying round, with the Archers taking the 11-10 regulation victory. While the Atlas went 1-3 over the short term, they aren’t pushovers. They lost two games by one goal and could have gone 3-1 if things fell their way. Although the Atlas are a better defensive side, I like the Archers to win this one by multiple goals. I see 2020 #1 overall pick Grant Ament having a big game and being the difference maker.
Elimination Game 3: #2 Chrome over #7 Chaos
The Chaos are the only team to not have a win so far this season. Despite having one of the better defenses in the PLL, their offense was never able to get going enough for wins to follow. In their meeting during the qualifying stage, the Chrome won by four goals. Expect more of the same here as the Chrome ride their more effective attack to a win.
Semifinal Game 1: #1 Whipsnakes (bye) over #5 Waterdogs
As much as I love the Waterdogs as this year’s expansion franchise, the defending champion Whipsnakes are easily the league’s best team. The Whips lead the PLL in scores, total goals, assists, shots, shot percent, and faceoff percentage. They also surrendered the fewest scores against and finished second in penalty kill percentage, save percentage, and power play conversion rate. Joseph Nardella has won 75% of his faceoffs this season, and that will provide a huge advantage for the PLL’s best offense. The Waterdogs can be pesky on defense, but the Whipsnakes should have no trouble with them.
Semifinal Game 2: #3 Archers over #2 Chrome
The Archers beat the Chrome earlier this season in OT, and I think they can get it done again in the semifinals. While the two sides have statistically similar offenses, I would say the Archers have a more balanced attack with four of the PLL’s top twelve goal scorers. The Chrome have been red-hot as of late, but I’m giving this one to the Archers in a close affair with some fun offense.
Premier Lacrosse League Championship
PLL Championship: #1 Whipsnakes over #3 Archers
The Whipsnakes are too good not to repeat as Premier Lacrosse League Champions. This game will feature six of the top twelve point scorers (goals & assists) in the league. Four of those belong to the Whipsnakes, including two of the top three in reigning MVP Matt Rambo and former Virginia Cavalier Zed Williams. In their qualifying matchup, the Whips won by six goals, which also happens to be their average differential. The Archers certainly have the offense to make this game interesting, but their defense won’t be able to withstand the Whipsnake attack. This will be a fun shootout that results in a repeat champion.