NLL Week 14: Boston Blazers and Philadelphia Wings Fight for Playoff Spot
A win and you are in if you are the Boston Blazers.
Unfortunately, the Blazers will be bringing in with them a five-game losing streak when they host the Philadelphia Wings on Saturday at TD Garden in Boston.
Philadelphia has been chasing Boston the past couple of weeks and are now just one-half game behind the Blazers for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Division. The Wings also have the slight advantage down the home stretch of the season as they play one more game then Boston does.
The Blazers are coming off an embarrassing loss last weekend at home against Rochester in which the Knighthawks ran away with the 19-8 win.
“What has happened has happened and it is in the past and we control our own destiny,” said Boston head coach Matt Sawyer, referring to last Saturday’s game with Rochester. “We have a big game with Philadelphia. If we win that game, we are in the playoffs and will have the opportunity to reach our ultimate goal.”
Even though Boston hasn’t won since Feb 19, Philadelphia head coach John Tucker said getting a win this weekend won’t be easy.
“We are not surprised that there are times teams are in a lull. Boston is in a tough streak right now but at any time they can get out of it. They are talented enough to win it all,” Tucker said.
Philadelphia is coming off a big win last weekend in which they defeated the Eastern leading Toronto Rock 11-8. What was more impressive about Philly’s win is that they held the Rock, who has scored the most goals in the East, to just two red lighters in the second half.
The Wings will have their chance to clinch the final playoff spot in the East if they beat Boston on Friday and Rochester on Sunday. Philly closes out their regular season on Apr. 16 at Minnesota.
Boston and Philadelphia have split the season series so far, and Sawyer said if his team wants to win the series and continue playing through May, the squad will have to come out strong on Saturday.
“We need to show that we can build some momentum up front on offense,” Sawyer said. “Not necessarily put the ball in the net, but string some good offensive shifts together.”
Saturday’s game begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT from Boston. The game can be viewed live on the NLL Network at NLL.com.
Now here is a look at the other six games in week 14 of the National Lacrosse League.
Buffalo Bandits at Toronto Rock – Friday Apr. 8, 7:30 p.m. EDT
The top seed in the Eastern Division will be on the line when the Buffalo Bandits head north of the border to take on the Toronto Rock.
Toronto can clinch the East with a win while Buffalo needs a victory to stay alive in the race for first place. Both teams have already clinched a spot in the postseason.
“It’s a game that we’ve been looking forward to,” said Toronto general manager and assistant coach Terry Sanderson of the matchup with the Bandits. “You measure yourself against the better teams in the league. You have to give Buffalo credit for how they are playing and they are one of the better teams in the league.”
Both teams played overtime contests last week as Toronto defeated Washington in overtime on Friday while Buffalo lost in the extra frame to the same Stealth club on Saturday.
Friday’s game will be played at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and it will likely be an emotional night for the Rock faithful as goaltender Bob Watson will be playing his final regular season home game in a Rock sweater. Watson will retire at the end of the season, ending his 15-year career.
“He has had such a fantastic career,” said Buffalo associate general manager Derek Graham of Watson. “He is one of the best goalies to play the game of box lacrosse. He has solidified himself as one of the best ever.”
Colorado Mammoth at Calgary Roughnecks – Friday Apr. 8, 9:30 p.m. EDT
The Calgary Roughnecks can clinch the top seed in the West with a win on Friday while the Colorado Mammoth will be looking to continue their run to the postseason
Colorado won’t be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with a loss, but a victory would give them an edge over the Edmonton Rush for the final playoff spot in the Western Division.
At the start of the season, Calgary’s offense took many teams by surprise after they lost Tracey Kelusky and Josh Sanderson in the offseason. However, the Roughnecks attack upfront has been strong all year and is something that Colorado head coach Bob Hamley is most impressed with.
“They take Tracey Kelusky and Josh Sanderson out of their offense and they haven’t missed a beat,” Hamley said last weekend of Calgary. “Credit to the players and coaches for what they are doing and hopefully we can shut them down.”
The Mammoth defeated the Roughnecks 8-7 in week 2 of the season, and expect another close game as these two rivals always play each other tough, no matter who is the home team.
Buffalo Bandits at Rochester Knighthawks – Saturday Apr. 9, 7:35 p.m. EDT
If all goes well for Buffalo, after Saturday night, the Bandits could be the top seed in the Eastern Division for the playoffs.
All the Bandits need to do is defeat the Toronto Rock on Friday and then Western New York rival, the Rochester Knighthawks on Saturday.
Rochester is heating up at the right time as they are on a two-game winning streak and are just one game behind the Bandits in the East standings coming into the weekend.
The Knighthawks are seeing more production from their offense in which head coach Mike Hasen said is because the team is buying into his offensive system.
Saturday’s game begins at 7:35 p.m. EDT from Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.
Colorado Mammoth at Edmonton Rush – Saturday Apr. 9, 9 p.m. EDT
The Colorado Mammoth and the Edmonton Rush will play their rubber match game on Saturday with the winner likely going to the NLL Playoffs.
Colorado and Edmonton met last weekend in a home-and-home series with both clubs coming out as the winner in their own buildings.
The Mammoth will look for some revenge against the Rush in Edmonton, who outplayed Colorado in a 14-10 contest last Friday at Rexall Place.
Colorado could use another big weekend from forward John Grant Jr., who was named the NLL Overall Player of the Week for Week 13 after he scored six goals and added four assists over the two games with Edmonton.
The Rush can clinch a postseason berth with a win on Saturday and a Colorado loss on Friday while the Mammoth can clinch the final spot in the West with wins on Friday in Calgary and in Edmonton on Saturday.
Minnesota Swarm at Washington Stealth – Saturday Apr. 9, 10:30 p.m. EDT
It will be a battle for the second seed in the Western Division when the Minnesota Swarm travel to Comcast Arena in Everett, Wash., on Saturday to take on the defending NLL Champions, Washington Stealth.
Minnesota has the tiebreaker over Washington as the Swarm has won twice this season against the Stealth. However, Minnesota could use another win against Washington as the Swarm sit one-half game behind the Stealth for the second seed and a home playoff game.
Washington is coming off two overtime games last weekend against the top two teams in the East, and Stealth head coach Chris Hall said those games were a good measuring stick for his team.
“It was a really good time to see where we were,” Hall said. “I am very pleased with our performance. We got unlucky in Toronto and lucky in Buffalo. I was very impressed with our energy and skill level in those games.”
Minnesota is 3-3 in their last six contests and could use a big win against Washington before their final two regular season games versus Philadelphia and Colorado.
Rochester Knighthawks at Philadelphia Wings – Sunday Apr. 10, 2:30 p.m. EDT
Multiple times this season, the Philadelphia Wings were taken for dead in the Eastern playoff race.
First year head coach for Philadelphia, John Tucker, is on the verge of bringing the Wings back to the postseason if Philadelphia can get a win on Saturday at Boston and a home victory on Sunday against Rochester
“We are very excited for the weekend,” Tucker said “It’s a big weekend across the board. Rochester is playing as well as anyone in the league.”
The Knighthawks’ offense has played well in their last two games, and they will look to keep that intensity going during Sunday’s matinee.
“We have to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Rochester head coach Mike Hasen. “Offensively, we have to keep the ball moving and not allow it to get stuck in sticks and keep everybody’s feet moving as much as we can. On defense, the biggest thing is talking, that is the biggest thing we stress.”
Rochester has won the previous two meetings this season against Philadelphia, but both came away from the Wings home floor at the Wells Fargo Center.
All NLL games can me be viewed on the NLL Network at NLL.com (blackout in Canada may apply).
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