Championship Preview: Whipsnakes vs. Chaos
By Austin Owens | Sep 19, 2021
That’s how long it’s been since the Chaos and Whipsnakes went head to head in the 2020 PLL Championship game in Utah.
Since that point, both teams went through the continuation of the pandemic, another off-season filled to the brim with moves, training camps, and a nine-game campaign before the push for the title. But after all that we get to settle who will go home with the title on Sunday at Audi Field in Washington, DC.
The Chaos and Whips met in Week 1 in Boston, and the Whipsnakes won that game handily. However, both teams have changed since that last meeting.
Andy Towers’ squad finds themselves playing spoiler for the second consecutive campaign, as they’ve turned 4-5 campaign and a No. 6 seed into a deep playoff run and a chance at their first title.
They’ll be aiming to knock the Whipsnakes off the throne on Sunday. What can I say about the Whips that hasn’t already been said? The two-time defending champions got back to full health in the stretch run to the playoffs, and with Matt Rambo and Zed Williams back in the fold, they’re firing on all cylinders once again.
The PLL is set to host its biggest crowd to date in the nation’s capital to cap off its third season. Let’s hop in and check on the major storylines surrounding the final game of 2021.
Who Ya Got?
The higher-seeded Whipsnakes enter Sunday’s championship game as a -1.5 (-110) favorite. The Whips also hold a slight advantage in the fan vote, with 55 percent picking the two-time defending champs for the three-peat.
We talked about the dominance of Joe Nardella in last year’s championship game -- specifically his mastery of the draws in the fourth quarter.
Nardella was able to pull off an incredible stretch which saw the Whipsnakes keep the ball in the Chaos defensive half for nearly the entirety of the last 12 minutes.
But now, Chaos have Max Adler, who’s turned his season around at the perfect time. The eighth pick in the 2021 Entry Draft has been extremely impressive down the stretch, giving Chaos those extra possessions that are so crucial in any game but especially playoff games.
What does Adler need to do? The simple answer would be win more faceoffs than Joe Nardella. That’s the ideal scenario for Chaos. But obviously, splitting draws with him would be a big boost. Adler also needs to make it a three-man battle at the stripe for ground balls to avoid any runs like the one from last year’s championship game.
The Whips’ Midfield Weapon
A lot of the headlines go to Rambo and Zed -- obviously for good reason, given they’ve taken home the first two MVP awards in history. Williams does lead the team in scoring for the season, but it’s been the play of Brad Smith that has really opened eyes this year.
The second-round pick in the 2019 College Draft has been a force in his second season. He sits second on the Whips in scoring with 11 goals and 21 points.
At this stage, Smith has to demand a pole from any team the Whips play. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, he’s a dominant force running out of the box. Once he gets downhill, he’s a problem for any defender in the league.
Most of the attention will be paid to the likes of Rambo and Zed -- for good reason. However, Chaos will get torched from up top if they don’t properly close off Smith.
The Great Dhane
Chaos have their unique style and bevy of weapons at their disposal, but the man I’ll be watching in this game is the Chaos leader in assists this season.
Dhane Smith has been absolutely on fire in these playoffs, scoring 12 points in the two games so far. He’s one of the toughest covers on the team as well because of his style and blend of size and speed.
The 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Smith can run past you or drop a shoulder into your chest. He can thrive in any scenario. His first step is also so good that it doesn’t allow defenders much -- if any -- room for error. One misstep and it’s over. Smith is in with a Grade A scoring chance.
Smith was also used on inverts in the semi-finals, which allowed him to score a pair of goals with a short-stick matchup from X.
This could be a big day for Dhane. The Canadian is going to be a key piece if Chaos wants to take home the title.