The Weekend Preview: Semifinals in D.C.

By Josh Schafer | Sep 9, 2022

Blaze Riorden sat down at Saturday’s press conference and let out a semi-sarcastic “yay.” He had, after all, been in this position before. A quarterfinals victory, albeit an upset in many people’s eyes, wasn’t going to move the needle for the 2021 MVP and defending PLL Champion.

Then, the player who seemingly reverted back to his all-world self during the bye week, explained the Chaos’ 12-3 victory over Chrome in its simplest form.

“We thought our advantage was that we knew the magnitude of the moments that were going to come throughout the game,” he said.

The current Chaos roster is nearly identical to last year’s championship unit. Despite a rocky start to the season that landed the Chaos the lowest seed in the playoffs, the championship version of the team returned last Saturday.

Riorden saved 83% of the shots against him. Josh Byrne tallied six points. The Chaos defense held rookie standout Brendan Nichtern without a goal.

In the PLL playoffs, experience matters. That’ll likely show again this Sunday in Washington D.C. All four of the rosters are filled with veteran players, though two of them have never played in a PLL Championship. A quick look at that track record points to a repeat of last year’s final. But as Riorden points out, that’s far from a sure thing.

“I don’t really know who would want to play us after what we just put together,” Riorden said after the win Saturday. “But we also know it’s who shows up for those 48 minutes next week.”


Waterdogs LC vs. Whipsnakes LC

Sunday, September 11th at 1:00 p.m. ET | ABC

All-time series: Whipsnakes lead, 3-2

Stat to know: 23%

Atlas stopped just 23% of shots last week against the Waterdogs. Some of those shots could be attributed to poor goalie play by Atlas, while another part of that strong scoring percentage also came from smart shots by the Waterdogs. The Dogs shoot from high-percentage scoring areas and take smart shots. They’ll need to continue that against a sharp Whipsnakes defense on Sunday.

Why the Whipsnakes: The Whips had the bye for a reason. They’ve been the most consistent team in this league for four years in a row and it’s hard to see them fully giving out with a flop in the playoffs. Joe Nardella has the slight edge over Jake Withers in their careers with a 51% win percentage against the Waterdogs faceoff specialist. The Whips have more flashy firepower on offense with Zed Williams and Matt Rambo. They even, in some ways, might have the more complete team given their ability to finish in one-goal games on a consistent basis. But Waterdogs have overcome the paper odds before, as recently as last week.

Why the Waterdogs: Waterdogs just won perhaps the club’s most impressive game in its early history. The offense outscored a potent Atlas offense in a dominant win. After leading 17-7 heading into the third quarter, there is a momentum argument to be made surrounding the Dogs. Then there are the fundamentals too. Dillon Ward has been solid in cage. Waterdogs just went a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill against a talented offense. And their offense proved to be the better unit on the day, scoring a season-high 19 goals. Both of these games this year have been close but someone has to win the season series on Sunday.

The pick: It’s the Whips until they lose in the playoffs. The history is just too strong here.


Chaos LC vs. Archers LC

Sunday, September 11th at 3:30 p.m. ET | ESPN+

All-time series: Chaos leads, 5-3

Stat to know: 83%

We have to mention this stat again. Blaze Riorden saved 83 percent of faceoffs last weekend. That’s an unheard of percentage for a lacrosse goalie. If he’s going to play like that again this weekend, it’s going to be hard to see how Archers stand a chance.

Why the Archers: Archers LC has a talented offense. Like the kind of offense where it’s unclear who should draw a long pole and any free room in transition is likely leading to a goal. Typically Archers have a distinct disadvantage at the stripe but that likely won’t matter this weekend. Max Adler and Justin Inacio are split on 18 career faceoffs against each other. Despite last week’s performance by Chaos, Archers also still own the better defense on paper.

Why Chaos: Playoffs can often be about momentum. If that’s something you subscribe to, then Chaos is the pick. Last week, Chaos dominated Chrome in a way they’ve dominated teams in the past before. They won the groundball battle, swallowed attackmen’s hands and Riorden stood tall in net. If that sounds like a familiar formula, it’s because it’s the exact way Chaos has eliminated Archers from the playoffs in the past.

The pick: With Chaos’s defense playing with the attitude it had last week, I’m rolling with the defending champs. Give me a rubber match between the Whips and Chaos next week in Philly.