The National Lacrosse League adopted a crossover playoff system this year, in which the last-place team in the West Division can take the final playoff spot in the East Division if they finish ahead of the last-place eastern team. If there was any doubt about the fairness of the crossover, surely it is removed by looking at the dominance of the west this year. Western teams have gone 15-9 in inter-division games, so with only four such contests remaining in the last two weeks of the schedule they are assured of the advantage on the season even if they get swept the rest of the way. That seems unlikely, given that every team in the West is at least .500 against the East and no eastern team has a winning record against western clubs.
Colorado leads the way for the mighty West at 5-1. Calgary and Minnesota are both 3-2. Edmonton and Washington are both 2-2. Back east, the Wings are the only club without a losing record against their western brethren, sitting at 3-3. Toronto is 2-3, Rochester 3-4 and Buffalo 1-5. All in all, the records provide pretty solid support to the fairness of the crossover system. And the final post-season berth could come down to one last inter-division matchup, when Washington hosts Buffalo in the final game of the season. We’ll run through all the playoff possibilities as 2012 heads into the last two weeks of play.
Teams already clinched
Colorado and Calgary will host first-round games in the West and Minnesota is in the eight-team field. Philadelphia, Toronto and Rochester have all booked post-season tickets in the East, but no one is assured a home game yet. The Wings-Knighthawks matchup in Week 17 could determine who has to travel in the division semi-finals.
The Rush look to be in excellent shape. A win in any of their final three games would assure them of the franchise’s second playoff berth. That’s no sure thing since Edmonton plays Colorado, Calgary and Toronto to close out. Also working in their favour, though, is that a loss by either Buffalo or Washington in Week 16 would also clinch a spot for the Rush. Edmonton holds tiebreaker edges over both teams and one of them losing would mean that both couldn’t finish ahead of Edmonton, since Washington and Buffalo play each other in that season-ending contest April 28.
Buffalo and Washington
The two clubs’ playoff chances are inextricably linked. There is one scenario in which they both make the playoffs. If Edmonton loses all three remaining games, Buffalo beats Rochester in Week 16 and Washington wins its last two games, against Toronto and the Bandits, the Rush will be hitting the golf courses early.
If Edmonton wins a game, that leaves the Bandits and Stealth scavenging for the last spot. A Bandits win over the Knighthawks combined with a Stealth loss to the Rock would assure Buffalo keeps playing, since the Bandits would then be two games ahead with just the head-to-head game to play. However, if Buffalo loses in Week 16, that last game will be a win-and-you’re-in matchup, regardless of how Washington fares against Toronto.
That’s because of the Stealth’s 11-10 win in Buffalo on February 4. Beating the Bandits again obviously gives Washington the head-to-head tiebreaker. If Buffalo wins that game, Washington can’t finish tied with the Bandits, so the tiebreaker will be irrelevant.
In almost any scenario that plays out over the final two weekends, the 2012 NLL playoff race is going to come down to the last tick of the clock in the last game of the season.
Plus the links
Rhys Duch helped kick off a series of events this week in which the Stealth will help Northwest Harvest. Duch and Washington Director of Communications Michael Kennett visited Northwest Harvest’s Cherry St. Food Bank in Seattle Monday. (stealthlax.com)…There’s more than one reason that the Rush have turned things around of late, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that the club was 2-7 when they signed Steve Toll just before the trade deadline and have gone 3-1 since. (edmontonsun.com)…The Wings made three huge additions to their lineup before the season in Dan Dawson, Brodie Merrill and Kevin Crowley, and they’ve changed the fortunes of the club. In the summer, young lacrosse players in the area will be able to benefit from the additions as well, as the three players will directors at the Wings’ lacrosse camps. (wingslax.com)Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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