( Inside Lacrosse)
Let's look at the matchups heading into nest week's semi-finals.
Key Player: It has to be Matt Poskay, the MLL MVP to-be this year. He leads the MLL in goals and points, and the newly anointed Cannons all-time goal leader. Poskay keeps the Cannons unpredictable to cover, with him, Paul Rabil, Justin Smith, and Kevin Buchanan.
Key Stat: The Cannon are 5-1 at home. They may be the #1 ed, but there is no home field advantage for th playoffs in the MLL. They will have to work around the Bayhawks home field advantage to win.
Advantage: The Cannons ability to score is the obvious advantage, but let's look at oaltending. Kip Turner, the MLL goalie of the year, has to be the sticking point for a powerhoue Cannons team. The Cannons will score, but itwil be all for naught if they cannot hld the Bayhawks.
Disadvantage: The Cannons biggest issue this season has been blowing leads. They will have to say together and buckle down on defense in the forth.
Prediction: The Cannon will win this one.
Key Player: Drew Westervelt has to be Drew Westervelt. Coming off bad year overshadowed by Breden Mundorf and Max Seilbald, the Outlaws could be unbeatable if Westervelt turns it on.
Key Stat: Denver's Faceoff % is second to last in the league with it at .472, only ahead of the lowly Toronto Natonals. Andrew Hesseny will need to work his faceoffs better vs Long Island, a team that scores very well.
Advantage: Denver has the best man-up % in the MLL at 40%. That is only percentage points higher than Boston and Chicago, but the Outlaws will take any advantage they can get. This is where Westervelt will be key.
Disadvantage: The Outlaws have always been an emotional team and will have to chill out to stay in it with Long Island. The Outlaws have a tendency to look ahead to their next opponent, and they have to just play with the Lizards.
Prediction: The Outlaws will lose.
Key Player: Could it be anyone else but Matt Danowski? Again an MVP candidate, Danowski will have to be a shut-down player on defense againest the likes of Brenden Mundorf, Drew Westervelt, and Max Seibald. Danowski will also hav to stay hot on offense, scoring 12 goals in his last five games.
Key Stat: The Lizards have won those last five games where Danowski went on a tear, and that is no coincidence. How Danowski plays, the Lizards play. He will have to remain hot, and I wonder if this week off hurts Danowski more than it helps.
Advantage: It has to be defense.Long Island gave up less goals than anyone else, and not only because of Danowski, but goaltender Drew Adams and defensemen John Orson, Nicky Polonco, and Brian Spallina. The Lizards will have to shut down a tough Denver offense.
Disadvantage: The Lizards can hold Denver as long as they want, but they will have to score at some point, and that does not mean completely relying on Danowski. They will need Zack Greer to step it up and contribute some offense as well as Tim Goettelman, but this has been a problem all year.
Prediction: The Lizards go to the cup.
Key Player: Chris Garrity. He will need to absolutely shut down the Cannons offense if they want to beat them. They will have to completely rely on him to stop Poskay and Rabil if they have a shot, which is slim at best anyways.
Key Stat: The Bayhawks are only 3-3 at home, and they will have a sort of home field advantage this game. They will need to play better at home than hey played all season.
Advantage: Alex Smith is one of the Bayhawks only advantages, leading the MLL in faceoff percent. Chris Eck is not slouch on faceoffs, but Smith should be able to handle the faceoffs for Chesapeake.
Disadvantage: Offense. The Bayhawks are very inconsistent scoring, so this may turn out to be an advantage. But the Bayhawks will need to overcome their inconsistencies on offense for that to happen.
Prediction: The Bayhawks will lose in their first playoff appearance since 2005.