The first inaugural PLL Championship Series gets underway tonight down in Washington DC. "What in the actual frick is the Championship Series?" you may be asking yourself right now. Well I'll tell ya.
From this point moving forward until the Earth is swallowed up by the sun, the top 4 teams in the PLL regular season rankings will be competing in an offseason tournament called the Championship Series. The tournament consists of a 3-game round robin, semifinals, and a championship. You know, how tournaments often work.
But what makes the Championship Series different than just your ordinary playoffs? Well instead of playing the traditional version of lacrosse, the Championship Series will be a juiced up version of Sixes. For anybody who doesn't know what Sixes is yet, just think about what would happen if lacrosse and basketball had passionate unprotected sex, lacrosse dumped a load into basketball, and then 9 months later they had a beautiful baby.
5v5 lacrosse + a goalie. No long poles for defensemen. 8-minute quarters. Shorter field, shorter shot clock, no faceoffs after goals, and a shit ton of scoring.
It's high paced, a ton of action, and features all the best lacrosse players in the world who don't have other obligations to fulfill like playing in the NLL (i.e. Jeff Teat, Tom Schreiber, Matt Rambo, etc).
So for the inaugural Championship Series this year, we have the Archers, Atlas, Chrome and Whipsnakes in the tournament. Even though the Waterdogs won the championship last year over the Chaos, those teams finished as the 5th and 7th seeds at the end of the regular season.
As I mentioned before, there are going to be a shit ton of goals scored in this tournament. There are 6 round robin games, and then 3 playoff games. So 9 games total and I wouldn't be surprised if they have to replace the nets 9 different times throughout the tournament.
If there's one team in the PLL that loves to score goals more than anybody else, it's this Archers offense. In the 4 years the league has been around, their offense has consistently been one of the most lethal. So if Sixes is all about being a sprint to see who can fill up the back of the net the fastest, I like the Archers chances in this thing. Grant Ament hasn't had to dodge against a shortstick defender since elementary school. Same goes for guys like Matt Moore and Will Manny. A guy like Ryan Aughavin has plenty to come out here and prove this week. I'm not totally sure how this roster stacks up defensively against the rest of the tournament, but sometimes the best defense is to just score a billion goals.
In my very humble yet extremely expert opinion, the Atlas have the best team heading into this tournament. The key to Sixes is to have the best two-way players. Guys like Romar Dennis, Bryan Costabile, Dox Aitken and Koby Smith can be lethal on offense and defense. Even a guy like Jake Carraway, who is an attackman, plays the game like such an angry asshole sometimes that he'll be a force to deal with on defense. But the key is to have guys who can clamp down on defense and score at will in transition. Personally I think the Atlas have the most amount of those guys in this tournament, and then you get to add a guy like Chris Gray to the mix and they should score every time they touch the ball. I love the Atlas in this tournament.
The Chrome are bringing a ton of beef to this tournament. A lot of big boys who should be able to take advantage of dodging against a bunch of short sticks. Dylan Molloy, Colin Heacock and Logan Wisnauskus should be able to do pretty much whatever they want to do offensively. Kevin Rogers and Justin Anderson are a couple of guys who should be dangerous in transition. And as much as I think this week is going to suck a ridiculous amount of ass for goalies since they're just going to get peppered with a hundred shots per game, I like the Chrome's duo of Sean Sconone and Owen McElroy. The Chrome definitely aren't favorites heading into this tournament (+350 to win), but that's some really solid juice for a really solid squad.
As previously mentioned, Sixes is all about having the best two-way players you can get. And there aren't many better two-way guys than Ty Warner. There also aren't many better short stick defenders on the planet than Roman Puglise, so the fact that the Whipsnakes have both of those guys in this tournament seems like a cheat code. The biggest thing that worries me about the Whips heading into this tournament is the fact that they won't have Matt Rambo or Zed Williams, since both of those guys are currently playing NLL. Not only are they the best two offensive players for the Whipsnakes, but they're the leaders down there too. Guys like Brad Smith and Justin Guterding should be able to fill that void pretty well though. Both were on the Team USA sixes roster for the World Games last summer, so they both have plenty of experience in this version of the game. Pretty sure they're the only two guys in this tournament who do.
Here's the full schedule and broadcast info for the round robin stage starting tonight through Friday night.
The two games on Thursday night will have our very sweet boy Jake Marsh on the call. So make sure to have ESPN+ dialed up for Thursday night at 6:30 and 8:30pm.
The semifinals will be Saturday night at 5pm and 7pm on ESPN+. And then the championship game will be on ESPNU Sunday morning at 11:30am.
Obviously there's a lot of unknown since this is the first tournament and we've never seen any of these teams play sixes before. But I like Atlas -132 and Chrome +110 for tonight's games.