Blaze Riorden Playoffs

Why Blaze Riorden is a nightmare for opponents in the playoffs

By Daniel May

Aug 30, 2023

Blaze Riorden has been the backbone of the Chaos defense since the team's inception. Now, entering the playoffs, his presence is even more valuable. The 2021 Jim Brown League MVP and three-time Oren Lyons Goalie of the Year plays his best when it matters most.

Over this past weekend, during the Chaos' 10-6 win over Chrome in Salt Lake City, Paul Carcaterra spoke about how Blaze has a polarizing impact in the postseason. 

"This guy is the one player who can tilt, I think, the playoffs more than anyone," said Carcaterra. 

In 2022, along with a stellar defense in front of him, Blaze shut the door. He registered a 68% save percentage and only allowed seven scores against per game in the playoffs — both career bests. 

His efforts propelled them to the finals, where they lost 11-9 to the Waterdogs, but he finished the game with a playoff best 17 saves, stopping 61% of the shots he faced. 

In 2021, he did the same thing. Riorden improved on an already fantastic save percentage from the regular season — 61% to 63% – and helped limit opposing teams to 10 goals or under in every game. 

In 2021 and 2022, Blaze elevated his play in the playoffs, and 2023 will be the same. The decorated veteran has proven why he's the most impactful player in the league.

Blaze gets in shooters' minds

Blaze makes plenty of saves, but his impact is so much more significant than that. Blaze gets inside the minds of shooters because he makes excellent opportunities seem like wasted chances. 

The 11-3 victory against the Chrome in the quarterfinal from a year ago was a perfect example. They missed many chances at the beginning of the game, and once they finally found their footing, Blaze Riorden was red hot.

The following weekend, in the 9-7 semi-final victory against the Archers, Riorden erased shooters again. 

With the Chaos up 4-2 with 7:15 left in the third quarter, Blaze had already made nine saves. Tom Schreiber swept over the top, drew the defender responsible for covering the drifter, and swung the ball to Matt Moore for a hands-free low-to-high step down from 12 yards out. Riorden made the save with little effort. 

A hands-free step down from the University of Virginia's all-time goal scorer, who also changed levels. What more could you ask for?

Immediately after the save, Carcaterra highlights Riorden's abilities to rattle shooters. 

"[After missing good shots] you start thinking as a shooter – we can't solve this guy. And the last thing you want to do as a shooter is overthink," said Carcaterra after the shot. 

That's suffocating for a team trying to erase deficits or score timely goals in a do-or-die playoff game.

If you start the game shooting poorly against Chaos, it allows Blaze and the unit to get into a groove. And as we've all seen — don't let Blaze get hot. 

He saves shots that are routine goals for the league's best shooters. Chances on the crease, on-the-run shots between the pipes, and hand-free step-downs. They're routine saves for Riorden that make opponents pull their hair out between shifts. 

What makes the Chaos defense dangerous

On top of a terrific goalie, Chaos boasts a defense filled with cutthroat defenders who can neutralize their matchups.

Jarrod Neumann, Jack Rowlett, and Rookie of the Year Finalist Will Bowen can take on any one-on-one matchup. Mix that in with an athletic defensive midfield group who run the rails with any team's opposing midfielders. 

It results in a cohesive unit that forces opposing shooters to areas of the field where Riorden is comfortable seeing shots from. 

So even if you feel like you're getting a good chance, Chaos is ready and prepared, while the best goalie in the world is poised to make the save. 

That's what the best defenses in the world do, which is what Chaos focuses on when game planning for opponents.

"I think the number one thing is we speak to the guys on our team to make sure that we're strategizing in a way that yields a plan that everybody can get behind. And certainly, the type of shots Blaze wants to see is at the top of that list," said Head Coach and General Manager Andy Towers.

Can anyone change a game like Blaze Riorden? No. 

He makes momentum-changing saves, eliminates the team's best shooters, and can create great looks in transition with his outlets – who set a career-high with four assists this season. 

That's what makes him the most valuable player in the league and why the Chaos are a tough matchup in the playoffs.

Nothing comes easy with Blaze in the goal. 

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