The Weekend Preview: PLL in SLC
By Josh Schafer | Aug 12, 2022
Since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve longed for the return to normal, for the proper image of something that looked totally different in 2020. This weekend we’ll have the PLL version of a return to normal.
For the first time since the Championship Series, the PLL returns to Zions Bank Stadium. It will start with the return of PLL After Dark but this time the crowd noise won’t have a curfew.
Finally, the stands won’t have cardboard cutouts, the crowd noise won’t be pumped in via speakers and the gates will swing both ways. Finally, fans can see the host of our entertainment during the slow sports summer of 2020.
Flanked by red rock, the venue is likely the most visually stunning the PLL will play at this year and perhaps one of the best aesthetically looking stadiums. If the content from the Championship Series was any indication, it should be quite a sight with fans too.
Atlas LC vs. Whipsnakes LC
Friday, August 12th at 8:00 p.m. ET | ESPN+
All-time series: Whipsnakes lead, 5-0
Stat to know: 81
Whipsnakes are tied with Chrome for the least amount of goals allowed through eight games. In a matchup against the league’s best offense this becomes particularly relevant as the Whips have already stifled Atlas once.
Player Royale to consider: Kyle Bernlohr, G, Whipsnakes LC
Bernlohr stood on his head the last time these two teams played with a 72% save percentage. Watching that game in person, you could feel Bernlohr’s momentum as he and Concannon traded saves. Perhaps a prisoner of the moment pick here, but if Bernlohr shut down the Atlas once, maybe he can do it again.
Why the Whipsnakes: Jack Concannon was a brick wall in the first game against Whipsnakes and the Whips still found a way to come back. Part of that was because of the Whips own goalie, Kyle Bernlohr. Outside of last year’s championship game, the Whips experience always seems to win out. Like the New England Patriots or Golden State Warriors, they’re the kind of next-level championship team that comes out of halftime with a rebuttal the opposition isn’t expecting. It’s always hard to pick against a team like that.
Why Atlas: This is the best offense vs. the best defense in the league. While the Whipsnakes kept Atlas relatively in check last time around, you still have to respect Atlas’ ability to score in a hurry. Concannon’s doorstep saves could limit some momentum shifting opportunities from the Whips who score more frequently on the doorstep than any other team in the PLL. Atlas is a more well-rounded team in transition. If they can speed this game up they could shake up Whipsnakes usually groove.
The pick: The Whips were rolling last week. I’m riding that wave and believing they’ve hit their stride at the right time yet again.
Waterdogs LC vs. Redwoods LC
Friday, August 12th at 10:30 p.m. ET | ESPN+
All-time series: Redwoods lead, 2-0
Stat to know: 34
The Redwoods have created the least amount of transition shots (34) of any team this season. They don’t force a lot of clean turnovers that lead to shots nor march down from the faceoff stripe for a clean look. But the Waterdogs have the worst fast break defense in the league. If the ‘Woods can get out and run a bit more on Friday night, it could be a game changer.
Player Royale to consider: Connor Kelly, M, Waterdogs LC
I wanted to pick Kelly last week but was swayed due to some different tier dynamics. After he put up 17 points last week, I can’t pass him up again. The Waterdogs have played better offensively than the Redwoods have defensively and I like taking a top Dog here.
Why the Waterdogs: The Waterdogs have won five straight. To me, this argument starts and stops there. Particularly when picking games, fighting a hot hand feels like a reach. But, it’s also relevant to note that the Waterdogs are second in settled offensive efficiency. Dillon Ward has the third highest save percentage among goalies league wide. Since he’s come back there’s been a clear shift in the ‘Dogs performance. Given how shaky the Redwoods netminders have been, it’s clearly an advantage for the Waterdogs.
Why the Redwoods: To this point, TD Ierlan has dominated Waterdogs faceoff specialist Jake Withers, winning 70% of their draws. If that stat holds on Friday, it could be a long night for the Waterdogs. The ‘Woods have shown some offensive sparks over the last few weeks that could help push them over the edge particularly given the potential possession advantage.
The pick: The Waterdogs have consistently found a way to win games and that can’t be overlooked.
Chaos LC vs. Archers LC
Saturday, August 13th at 12 p.m. ET | ESPN+
All-time series: Chaos leads, 5-2
Stat to know: 38%
Archers are last in the league in faceoff percentage (38%). It’s not necessarily a defining stat this week, but one to watch moving forward. It’s hard to conceive how Archers can make a run while chasing possessions this frequently.
Player Royale to consider: Jack Rowlett, D, Chaos LC
I needed a tier three defender this week and decided to return to a matchup that Rowlett’s dominated in the past. Last season, Rowlett’ physical presence dominated the Archers. He’s the kind of player that will be motivated by the flop earlier this year.
Why Chaos: Chaos’ defense has manhandled Archers offense in the past. Jack Rowlett has had success against Grant Ament, sending Archers offense spiraling out of control. But that didn’t happen earlier this year. A Chaos team without its usual offense looked out of sorts. Can the old Chaos return this week?
Why the Archers: Through the whole season, Archers are the better team here. Their offense can be explosive. Their defense can lock it down at times. It’s easy to see how the game went the way it did the first time. As is always the case with the league’s worst faceoff unit, the Archers will need to be efficient on offense as they’ll likely have the ball less.
The pick: I don’t think this Chaos defense allows 17 goals to the same team twice in a season. Give me the defending champs.
Cannons LC vs. Chrome LC
Saturday, August 13th at 2:30 p.m. ET | ESPN+
All-time series: Tied 1-1
Stat to know: 25.8%
Chrome allows goals on less than 26% of opponents’ possession. That’s the best mark in the league. The Cannons have the least efficient defense in the PLL. Not a good start to the matchup on paper for the Boom Squad.
Player Royale to consider: Lyle Thompson, A, Cannons LC
Looking at the numbers, I don’t see how you can play this weekly fantasy lineup without picking Thompson. He’s picked up no less than 28 points each of the last three weeks and his 177 points on the year is more than 40 points above the next closest attackman.
Why Chrome: The case for Chrome lies in the Cannons’ faults as much as it does the Chrome Dome beauties’ successes. Cannons defense has been lackluster this year and Chrome will almost surely find ways to score the rock on Saturday. Connor Farrell will provide ample possessions for Chrome even if Cannons goalie Nick Marrocco can stifle the Chrome offense at times. Chrome's six-goal run to end the last matchup with an overtime victory showed how dominant it can be over Cannons in spurts. But a slow start against a desperate Cannons team could be deadly on Saturday.
Why the Cannons: If you like an underdog with their backs against the wall, Cannons are your team. They’re 1-7 and a loss could push them out of the playoffs. With the best attackman in the world on offense, Cannons score nearly as frequently as Chrome. This game is about the defense stepping, which at this point year just hasn’t happened.
The pick: Too much points to Chrome winning here to go with the emotional win.