The grind of the regular season is over and the march to winning the new National Lacrosse League Cup starts Friday night! While the Swarm and Rush relax on a well earned bye week, the pair of division semi-final single elimination games are almost too close to call.
NLL staff members Andy McNamara, Tyson Geick, Brian Shanahan, and Ashley Docking deliver their game predictions every week.
Send us your picks @NLL on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook using the specific game hashtags for each match-up below.
East Division Semi-Final: (3) New England Black Wolves at (2) Rochester Knighthawks – Friday, 7:30pm ET
I feel this East division battle will come down to goaltending as Rochester’s all-time great Matt Vinc is opposite multi-time NLL champion Aaron Bold. The Black Wolves netminder, along with the entire team, was inconsistent for much of the 2018 campaign; however, the club finished strong. The cliche “clicking at the right time” comes to mind.
The Knighthawks went through the rollercoaster growing pains of a young team during the first half of the season, survived it, then really came together over the last two months. New England swept the season series, but I feel Rochester is a bit better in every area right now.
Almost every stat you look at – goals for, against, specialty teams – lead to the conclusion that Rochester is superior to the New England Black Wolves. However, one very important stat can’t be overlooked…the Wolves were 3-0 against the Knighthawks this year.
Regardless of that I’m sticking with Rochester.
While the Black Wolves won the season series three games to none, I’m going with the Knighthawks. When it’s all on the line, I am more confident in their roster top to bottom than I am the Black Wolves.
The Knighthawks just have to figure out how to score on the Black Wolves, and they’ll be alright… but that won’t be easy as they only scored 23 goals in three games against New England this season.
Well look what we have here. The Knighthawks were owned by the Black Wolves this regular season, they lost all three games, but it was close. Rochester was still successful on draws and got a lot of shots on Aaron Bold, who was great against them. The Black Wolves margin for error is just so small I’m picking the home team, but I’ll probably be wrong!
Tweet at @NLL using #NEvsROC
West Division Semi-Final: (3) Calgary Roughnecks at (2) Colorado Mammoth – Saturday, 9pm ET
How much should history play a role in predicting the present? Calgary’s playoff dominance over Colorado is well documented, but what does that mean for the current players of both franchises? Probably not much.
Overall the Roughnecks struggled on the road (3-6), but the Mammoth didn’t light it up at home (5-4). This is a pick’em to me where a low scoring slugfest or a high flying shootout wouldn’t be a surprise. I have this gut feeling that the rise of the Riggers young stud goalie Christian Del Bianco continues and he helps his crew hold on in Denver.
I went back and forth on this one. Colorado was a better team this season, but they haven’t beaten Calgary in a playoff game since 2006. I think that when both clubs play their best the Mammoth’s defence will win the game.
I know the Mammoth won the season series 2-1, but I smell an upset in this one. The Mammoth really struggled in the second half of the season, and I feel that Calgary has the pieces in place to take them by surprise in round one.
I don’t have the actual numbers on hand, but picks wise, it feels like my first year hasn’t gone so well. The good news is there are less games to get wrong in the postseason. The bad news is things become a lot less clear.
Case in point, the West Division semi-final. Colorado won the season series 2-1 but the Mammoth didn’t face Christian Del Bianco in one of their wins, so we’re back to square one. Listen, I just think that the Colorado defence will be too disruptive to the Roughneck offence in this one. So despite the Roughnecks post-season dominance over that last five years, I’m going Mammoth.
Tweet at @NLL using #CGYvsCOL
Check out my East Division playoff preview here: https://bit.ly/2jk7gGZ
West Division preview link: https://bit.ly/2HqcWd3
Andy McNamara has been a play-by-play commentator for the NLL on TSN, NLLTV.com, and world lacrosse tournaments since 2011. He’s also a sport talk host and anchor on TSN 1050 sports radio. Follow Andy on twitter @AndyMc81.