June 23, 2015 by Steven Wartinbee in News, Preview with 8 comments
Since last Friday’s installment of Deep Look, a lot of action has occurred the AUDL with big playoff implications. Check out our recap of last weekend’s action and a preview of the AUDL postseason scenarios.
In the East division, Toronto cemented its lead at the top with a commanding win over third-placed Montreal, 24-18. After that loss, Montreal played a doubleheader against the Rochester Dragons, taking both games by a combined score differential of +9. Elsewhere, the Empire edged the Breeze in both legs of their weekend doubleheader, in part thanks to inclement weather; flash flooding caused the first leg in D.C. to be called at 8-7 with the Breeze about to come out on defense, down a break.
Despite the narrow margin of the first win, the Empire came out strong on Sunday’s rematch at home, limiting the Breeze to only 13 goals as New York put up 21 in very windy conditions. Rochester and Philadelphia, with just a single win between them on the season, should be expected to bolster their higher-ranking opponents’ records for the duration of the season. That primarily benefits the Empire, as their only games remaining are against the Dragons and Phoenix. Expect them to take care of business and finish the season strong at 11-3.
Toronto should also not be troubled by the remainder of their season: they face Rochester twice at home, before a home-and-away doubleheader against the Outlaws to close out the 2015 regular season. While Ottawa has shown flashes of brilliance on top of consistent play, 4 of their 6 wins have come against the bottom three teams in the division; notably, they do have two wins over Montreal. That makes this weekend’s game between Ottawa and Montreal a big one, especially when you consider the fact that the Outlaws play the Rush twice to end the season.
That gives us reason to consider the Royal the favorite to secure the last playoff berth. The only scenario (other than a series of upsets) in which Ottawa could beat Montreal to third place is if the Rush secure the division title and begin resting starters in preparation for the playoffs. Montreal only has two games left, both at home against Ottawa and D.C.
It’s worth noting that the Royal also have a head-to-head tiebreaker over New York, so if the Empire slip up down the stretch, the Royal could still grab the 2nd spot and home field advantage in the first round.
Picks to advance:
1. Toronto Rush (13-1)
2. New York Empire (11-3)
3. Montreal Royal (10-4)
Divisional Final: Empire @ Rush
With only two games left against Nashville and Charlotte, the South is Raleigh’s to lose, as long as they can overcome the slow starts which have seen them gift points to opponents early, only to lock down and win games in the second half. With the addition of the UNC/UNCW stars out of the college game, they should likely cruise to a smooth pair of wins to end their season.
The second playoff spot is significantly less secure. Atlanta and Jacksonville are currently tied at 8 wins, but the Hustle have a game in hand that Jacksonville has already lost. The most interesting part of this battle is that they play each other on the 4th (on ESPN3).
The Cannons need to win out in order to make the playoffs. Given that Jacksonville is 2-1 against Atlanta, if the Hustle take the game on Independence Day in Atlanta, Jacksonville’s season will likely be over. Expect a fiery game from both teams and their stars as they leave it all on the field.
Picks to advance:
1. Raleigh Flyers (11-3)
2. Atlanta Hustle (11-3)
Divisional Final: Hustle @ Flyers
After this weekend’s doubleheader sweep of the Wildfire, Madison has all but locked up the top seed in the Midwest. They have a two and a half week rest before they take on the Alleycats and Revolution, both at home in Madison. While the division isn’t mathematically clinched, it’s tough to see Madison dropping either of those games, especially at home. Neither Indianapolis nor Cincinnati has been able to come close in their first games against the Radicals; even on the road, Madison won both games by 8 and 14, respectively.
Pittsburgh also heads into the home stretch of the regular season confident in securing the two seed. Games against the Wildfire, Mechanix, and Alleycats bookend a road trip to Cincinnati. Barring significant personnel loss, the Thunderbirds by all indications should go undefeated the remainder of the season. While the Alleycats have been threatening recently, they shouldn’t trouble a full strength Pittsburgh squad. Pitt’s loss to the Wildfire also came while missing some of their top stars, and they will be looking to avenge that before a likely first round rematch with Chicago.
Despite the current seeding, Chicago should be able to pull out the necessary wins in order to take third and make the playoffs. They travel to Detroit and Pittsburgh before finishing in Chicago against Detroit again. Assuming they play Pittsburgh close and sweep the Mechanix, the Wildfire should be able to edge the Alleycats, as they currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Alleycats have been competitive this year, but three road games, two coming against the Radicals and Thunderbirds, to end the season would test any team. While they should beat Minnesota both home and away, a pair of losses against the regional powerhouses gives the Alleycats little room for error. That being said, it is still possible that Indianapolis could advance with some stellar showings, especially if Chicago slips up. Regardless of Chicago or Indy taking the third spot, the first round playoff should see Pittsburgh advance to one of the most eagerly anticipated divisional finals in the AUDL and take on Madison.
Picks to advance:
1. Madison Radicals (13-1)
2. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (12-2)
3. Chicago Wildfire (8-5-1)
Divisional Final: Thunderbirds @ Radicals
In the most volatile division of the AUDL, no team has been mathematically eliminated yet. San Jose locked up the top spot in the division with a statement win last weekend, 35-28, over their biggest competition, the Seattle Cascades. Seattle looks likely to take the 2nd spot, but the third berth is still very much up for grabs. The Growlers and Flamethrowers are both very much within reasonable contention of the final playoff spot.
San Francisco faces the tougher remaining schedule. They see the Spiders one more time before embarking on an away doubleheader against Vancouver and Seattle. The Bay Area rivalry game is tough to call; a full-strength San Jose should be able to beat San Francisco, but it remains to be seen whether the Spiders will risk injury to their stars with the top spot already clinched. While the Flamethrowers should clean up against Vancouver, a back-to-back Sunday game against a fresh Seattle squad is not an easy prospect.
Farther south, the San Diego Growlers and Los Angeles Aviators will be locked in a three game series; San Diego will be at home for the first and third. While San Diego and L.A. have split games thus far, recent results indicate the Growlers should take the series. The Aviators have been on a downward spiral, losing 5 of their last 7; their win against the Growlers came during San Diego’s learning period.
Since beginning the season 0-5 (two of the losses came against San Jose), the Growlers are 5-1, with a two point loss to the Flamethrowers the only blemish on their recent schedule. With each win they seem to gain momentum; that could be incredibly dangerous to the rest of the West’s title hopes moving into the postseason. San Diego has too much talent to go out quietly, and a sweep of Los Angeles would likely see them claim the third spot and be a significant threat to Seattle’s hopes of the second round. Of all playoff picks, it would be least surprising if San Diego upset Seattle to face San Jose in the divisional title game, but first they have to make it past the Aviators and/or hope the Spiders have too much pride to face San Francisco with a weakened roster.
Picks to advance:
1. San Jose Spiders (locked)
2. Seattle Cascades (9-5/8-6)
3. San Diego Growlers (8-6/7-7)
Divisional Final: Cascades @ Spiders