By Austin Owens | Aug 14, 2021
When the schedule makers put together the 2021 slate of games in the PLL, who could have thought that the penultimate day of the regular season would provide fans with a first-place decider along with a win-or-go-home contest.
Saturday will be the most exciting day of the campaign, and it kicks off with a showdown between the Atlas and Waterdogs, who will be battling to take home the No. 1 seed in the league and a bye into the semifinals on Sept. 5.
The pair of teams are facing off for the first time this season, and it should provide for some fireworks heading into the postseason.
We’ll see a matchup of possible MVP candidates, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this game.
Who Ya Got?
Atlas goes into this game as the betting favorite at -1.5 (+115) on DraftKings Sportsbook.
The Bulls also hold the slim advantage at the moment in PLL Pick ‘Em, as 52 percent of fans have them taking this one home.
The push for MVP
There’s a very good chance that this weekend could decide who goes home with the Jim Brown Most Valuable Player Award on Championship Weekend.
Grant Ament appears to be the clubhouse leader, but there are a pair of Canadians in the hunt: Jeff Teat and Zach Currier.
If we’re going by the player that is most valuable to his team, then I lean towards one of Teat or Currier. Their respective squads simply wouldn’t be where they’re at without them.
Teat’s all-around offensive dominance has been marvelous to watch while Currier has been a stat-sheet stuffer with his tremendous two-way play.
They have a chance to submit their final cases to voters in this contest, as each team has already played their final doubleheader of the season.
Teat is going to get his points. He’ll have to in order to help the Atlas pull out a win. As for Currier, with Connor Kelly back, he won’t need to have as big of a role offensively. But if he can put up another big performance on both ends, it’d be hard to argue against one of them for the top award.
Baptiste vs. Withers
By now, Trevor Baptiste and Jake Withers are pretty familiar with one another, and this rivalry at the stripe is going to be a great one to end the season.
Baptiste had a massive Week 7, leading to him setting single-game records in ground balls and face-off wins. He’s at the top of his game for the Bulls currently, and he’s allowing this electric offense to flourish with extra possessions in nearly every contest.
But as we’ve talked about, a day at the office against Withers isn’t a fun one. He turns a one-on-one at the faceoff stripe into a three-on-three ground ball battle. Pair a pitbull like Withers with a couple of ground ball vacuums like Currier and Ryland Rees and you’re not going to have an easy draw win.
Regardless of how good Baptiste is at getting the clamp, it’s going to take a full unit effort from the wings to take the faceoff advantage. It’ll be a war on every single whistle.
Despite the love that we give the offenses in the league, there isn’t a single team that can win consistently without solid play in the cage, and both goaltending tandems have been solid for the Bulls and Dogs.
After a tough start to the year, Dillon Ward has been huge for the Waterdogs down the stretch, as he’s capped off this great run of form with 19 saves against the Whipsnakes in Week 7 -- he allowed just six goals, finishing with a 76% save percentage.
Similarly, Atlas has been boosted in the cage by JD Colarusso, stepping in after Jack Concannon suffered a mid-season injury.
Colarusso has won three straight for the Bulls and posted double-digit save totals in all of those games. He’s also an Albany alum.
If the team wins, then it gives Concannon more time to get back to full strength from his injury.
What’s at Stake?
The short answer is the first seed in the league, but of course, anything can happen.
The Whipsnakes have the chance to win out, and if the Dogs take this game, there would be a three-team tie at 6-3. Then it would come down to score differential. Which the Waterdogs would likely come out on top of in this scenario. The Whipsnakes would need to beat the Archers by 23 goals minimum to take home the first seed...
But the Atlas simply need a victory to finish first and earn that quarterfinal bye.