8/1/10 7:00 AM
By Heather Crowley
For the final game of the season nothing could be more different for the Chicago Machine and the Denver Outlaws. Neither technically has much at stake in this final game of the season, as the Outlaws will enter the postseason as the No. 2 seed and Chicago was eliminated last week against Chesapeake. For the Outlaws however, it represents a chance to get on the same page before heading into the playoffs.
In its final game of the season Denver will play the rubber match of its series against Chicago. The first meeting was an even match with the score 13-13 until Chicago ran away in the fourth quarter and won 18-14. But when a second opportunity to play the Machine rolled around, Denver responded with a 14-11 win even after digging themselves into a 10-6 hole late in the third quarter.
The final game of the season is an important chance for the team to play together as unit and, after Denver’s 16-5 disaster against Boston, one last game may help the team get in sync before the off week prior to Championship Weekend. The five goal total was lowest output by the Outlaws in their five-year franchise history.
“It’s an opportunity to bounce back from playing our worst game of the season and to get better,” Denver head coach Brian Reese said. “The season series doesn’t mean as much as playing better lacrosse going into the playoffs.”
At this point strategy plays into the starting lineups for the top two seeds. Boston and Denver both play in games with few implications and have an opportunity to rest some of its top players, especially those from the World Games. However, if given the week off, they will not have played for three weeks when the playoffs roll around in Annapolis on August 21-22.
One positive aspect of this week’s matchup for Denver is that they do not need to worry about tipping their hand to a potential playoff matchup. If the Outlaws play full out there is no shot of them having to meet up with Chicago again and can go full force if they opt not to rest players.
Consider this: In its game last week against Boston starters Max Seibald, Brendan Mundorf and Drew Westervelt combined for zero goals and two Westervelt assists. The World Games trio shot 0-for-18 on the night in their first MLL game after Manchester. Before leaving, Mundorf scored five goals and seven assists in his previous three games.
“I think it’s important that we go into playoffs, playing good lacrosse,” Reese said. “We didn’t do that last week so we need to work on things this week.”
Additionally, there is some good news for Denver goalie Jesse Schwartzman. After getting lit up by Boston last week Schwartzman can only be too happy the Machine will be without their second highest pointer scorer Kevin Leveille, who has 33 on the season. Last time Leveille played against the Outlaws he scored four goals and had one assist.
Another key part of the game for the Outlaws in their matchup against Chicago, and heading forward into the playoffs, is going to be rookie Andrew Hennessey. Hennessey has taken over primary faceoff duties and in five games is at 44%. However, in big games Hennessey has stepped up. He went 14-for-26 when he matched up against Chesapeake’s Alex Smith in a close 12-10 win.
The final game may seem to hold little importance in the standings, but it is crucial for Denver to set a positive tone heading into the playoffs. The Outlaws picked a bad time to turn in their worst performance and go cold offensively; a win against Chicago could change things. If not, they could against be destined for an early playoff exit against Long Island or Chesapeake. Or perhaps even another loss in the finals.
“All I know is, we are going to have to play two very good teams if we want to win a championship,” Reese said. “Long Island is the hottest team in the league right now and we will have to be playing our best lacrosse no matter who we play.”
2010 Major League Lacrosse Championship Weekend presented by Warrior
August 21-22, Annapolis, MD
For information and tickets go to www.majorleaguelacrosse.com
|08/07/2010||Live Blog and Chat: Machine vs Outlaws|