NLL Semifinal Previews, Predicitions
Toronto is heavily favored against Rochester in the East, while the Edmonton-Minnesota final in the West is a toss-up that I'll cede to Edmonton for a reason we'll get into.
That's the way I see it, but I was only 2-for-4 on my predictions last week. I was 100 percent on the East and way off on the West. But, hey, who would have thought the two National Lacrosse League teams with the best regular-season records would both be eliminated in the first round?
Lacrosse is wild and sometimes weird, which is a big reason why I love it, and this has been a highly interesting season. The division finals doubleheader will be broadcast by the CBS Sports Network and by late Saturday we'll know which two survivors will play for the Champion's Cup during the May 19-20 weekend.
No. 2 Rochester at No. 1 Toronto
Last playoff meeting: 2011, Toronto won first-round game 10-8 at home.
Regular season records: Toronto 9-7, Rochester 7-9.
Season series: Toronto swept 3-0 (Jan. 27, Rochester 11 at Toronto 13; Feb. 24, Rochester 12 at Toronto 16; March 24, Toronto 13 at Rochester 7)
First round: Toronto won 7-6 at home over Buffalo; Rochester won 14-13 at home over Philadelphia.
Goaltending matchup: Toronto's Nick Rose had never started a playoff game before facing Buffalo but he shut out the Bandits for the last 33 minutes in allowing his teammates a chance to rally for the win. Toronto is 6-1 since he was given the job after sitting on the end of benches as a backup in Calgary and Boston . . . Matt Vinc of the Hawks is an established veteran with big-time credentials. He's a two-time NLL goalie of the year and he was in Canada's nets when it won the world indoor championship in Prague last May.
Odds and ends: Toronto has won three in a row while Rochester has won its last two . . . On Toronto's regular-season sweep, captain Colin Doyle says that piece of trivia can be tossed out the window . . . More importantly, the Rochester franchise has never celebrated a playoff victory in Toronto . . . Rock D Damon Edwards has been suspended for one game by the league for his non-penalized hit into the corner boards that separated Buffalo D Ian Llord's right shoulder last Saturday. A players' union appeal is pending.
Toronto coach Troy Cordingley: ''We saw what happened to Calgary. We've been fortunate against Rochester this year but they handled Philadelphia, who handled us. We know that the past is the past. It means squat. The team that moves on has to be on for 60 minutes with its A game. If we want a shot at this that's how we have to approach this game because we know Rochester is a very good team.''
Rochester coach Mike Hasen: ''We're going to have our hands full, for sure. We're going to have to be at our best in all facets. Special teams will be a big factor and I think it'll be the difference.''
Prediction: Doyle and Co. look ready to roll. This is too savvy a group of character vets to let a third straight trip to the final slip its fingers.
No. 4 Edmonton at No. 3 Minnesota
Last playoff meeting: none.
Regular season records: Minnesota 9-7; Edmonton 6-10.
Season series: 1-1 split (Feb. 10, Edmonton 9 at Minnesota 10 OT; March 31, Minnesota 8 at Edmonton 9 OT)
First round: Edmonton won 19-11 at Calgary; Minnesota won 14-10 at Colorado.
Goaltending matchup: Edmonton gave former Rochester backup Aaron Bold the crease this year and he's owned it. He'd be my pick for goalie of the year . . . Evan Kirk was outstanding in Minnesota's first-round win, he has superior stats to fellow rookie Swarm goalie Tyler Carlson, and coach Joe Sullivan said Wednesday that he was leaning towards starting Kirk on Saturday. But Sullivan has rotated his goalies religiously and it's Carlson's turn. Also, Sullivan suggested a week ago that Carlson would be his starter in Denver but went with Kirk. So, we won't know till game time who'll be in the Swarm crease.
Odds and ends: Edmonton has won 5 of last 8 while Minnesota is the hottest team in league with five consecutive wins . . . Swarm's win in Denver last Saturday was a first in six post-season appearances . . . Rush in playoffs for only the second time in 7-year history . . . Rush had poorest record of the eight playoff teams.
Edmonton GM-coach Derek Keenan: ''Two overtime games, 18 goals each -- it doesn't get much more even than that. They're a really good team. They're the hottest team in the league right now so we're going to have our hands full, that's for sure. We have to take care of the little things and concentrate on the process rather than the result.''
Minnesota coach Joe Sullivan: ''Edmonton, defensively, is playing really well, and their offense is spread out, which makes it tough to defend against. The hardest-working team is going to come out with the win, I'm sure.''
Prediction: This one is in the flip-a-coin category but I'll go with Edmonton on goaltending. I know Minnesota's rookie goalies have been fantastic but I'll be bold and go with Bold.