The 2019 National Lacrosse League Finals begin this weekend when the Buffalo Bandits and the Calgary Roughnecks battle in a best-of-three series.
Buffalo won the East Division and had the league's best record in the regular season (14-4), so the Bandits will have home-field advantage, hosting Game 1 and a potential Game 3. Calgary won the West Division after finishing 10-8 in the regular season and will host Game 2.
Below you can find information on how to watch and stream the NLL Finals, the full three-game schedule and a series preview featuring highlights from each team's playoff run.
How to Watch, Stream
Those in the U.S. and Canada can watch and stream every game of the 2019 NLL Finals on B/R Live. Coverage will begin 30 minutes before opening faceoff each night with NLL Finals Pregame Live, a 10-minute commercial-free show that will analyze and preview key matchups and bring you player interviews from both teams.
Full replays will be available to stream shortly after the conclusion of every game. Here are the direct links to stream the first two games:
The games will be played approximately one week apart (all times Eastern):
Game 1: Calgary Roughnecks at Buffalo Bandits, Saturday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m.
Game 2: Buffalo Bandits at Calgary Roughnecks, Saturday, May 25, at 9 p.m.
Game 3 (if necessary): Calgary Roughnecks at Buffalo Bandits, Friday, May 31, at 8 p.m.
Series Preview, Playoff Highlights
The Bandits and Roughnecks are two of the premier franchises in the National Lacrosse League. Buffalo joined the NLL in 1992, and Calgary followed 10 years later. Both dominated their first decades in the league, with the Bandits winning three championships in the 1990s and the Roughnecks winning two in the 2000s. Neither team has returned to the top of the league, however, since alternating titles in 2008 and 2009.
Past NLL Cup Wins
Buffalo: 1992, 1993, 1996, 2008
Calgary: 2004, 2009
2019 Season Head-to-Head
The two teams played only once in the regular season: a tight 12-10 Bandits victory in Buffalo in February. The Bandits' fast-paced transition play made the difference as they scored often before the Roughnecks defense could get set.
How They Got Here
In the East Division, the Bandits took care of business as the No. 1 overall seed in the NLL playoffs, defeating the New England Black Wolves 13-6 in the semifinals and then holding off the Toronto Rock 12-8 in the final.
In the West, the Roughnecks had a tougher road to the finals, traveling to San Diego and narrowly beating the expansion Seals 12-11 in the semifinals before hosting the Colorado Mammoth just four days later and coming away with an 8-4 win to advance to the NLL Finals.
Going back to their regular-season meeting, the key for the Roughnecks is to slow down the Bandits' transition game.
Buffalo led the NLL in goals this season by a large margin so the Bandits will get theirs, but Calgary has to make them work for them. If Buffalo gets into a good rhythm, it becomes perilous for the opponents.
The Roughnecks need to get physical with the Bandits, as they did with the Mammoth in the West final:
The key player matchup focuses on the great D(h)anes, the two leading scorers for each team: Dhane Smith for Buffalo and Dane Dobbie for Calgary. Smith led the Bandits with 102 points, including a league-leading 70 assists, while Dobbie led the NLL in points with 115 and finished second in goals with 47.
How each team executes its game plans on keeping Dobbie and Smith at bay likely will win the series.
It won't be enough to keep them from just scoring goals. Both are excellent playmakers, so they'll make the opposing defense pay if too many defenders are focusing only on them. Dobbie drawing a lot of attention and setting up Curtis Dickson as well as Smith doing the same to feed Corey Small in goal-scoring positions are sequences we're likely to see very frequently over the series.