Saturday, August 23, 2008
2008 Season Predictions Part 3 -- Playoffs
Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 to see how I got to this point.
While I've listed many "strongest lineups" for all the teams, I certainly don't necessarily think all of a team's such lineups are of about the same strength, with certain ones unquestionably stronger than others for certain teams. Even though that is the case, I wouldn't jump into trying to further narrow down what a team's playoff lineup might be since as mentioned, teams often settle into a groove late in the season which may well involve using a lineup which doesn't seem to be their best lineup on paper. Add to that the fact that there are often unique nuances like team's rosters changing mid-season, a player randomly being unavailable for the post-season, and similar such things which can also be a determination of the lineup, and it would be rather bold to try to make too specific assumptions about the lineups because of these issues. Nevertheless, I will attempt to make some guesses as to what might occur in the matches based on the general teams as well as their history for trying to determine who will emerge victorious in December.
Boston Blitz vs. Philadelphia Inventors:
This is a match-up which the Blitz have completely dominated in the first three seasons (5.5 / 6 matches). Now of course several of those matches occurred while the Inventors were playing at a severe disadvantage, but it's still not something to be ignored and add to this the fact that Boston will have draw odds and color choice, I think the Blitz take this.
Queens Pioneers vs. New York Knights:
These "subway" matches always have something special to them, and a playoff match between these two teams definitely will be as such even if isn't in the finals like the Yankees vs. Mets showdowns can often be. Essentially, depending on the style of lineup Queens really uses, I see New York having a decent rating advantage on one of of the bottom boards with the remaining boards being fairly close. Given that, along with the way New York has shown a good tendency to shine in the late season, having won a match facing draw odds in each of the last two playoffs, I think they likely do it again here pulling off the upset.
San Francisco Mechanics vs. Miami Sharks:
A playoff match-up which already has a fairly tremendous history with Miami overcoming the odds in two of the first three seasons to knock off the Mechanics in the post-season despite facing draw odds. Can they do it again or will it be third times the charm for San Francisco? If the Sharks go with one of their "stacked" lineups, it seems they will have a small rating edge on Board Three in exchange for a big disadvantage on Board Four. With one of the more balanced lineups, San Francisco (using current ratings), will have a small edge on both of the bottom boards. Either way, San Francisco seems to get a slight edge, both draw odds and color choice, and knowing the Mechanics' general drive, it seems hard to imagine that with such an advantage that they will allow yet another painful playoff loss to the Sharks. San Francisco advances here.
Dallas Destiny vs. Seattle Sluggers:
These teams had a very interesting playoff encounter in 2006 with Seattle pulling off a miracle save when they appeared to be on the verge of losing yet ended up advancing due to draw odds. If the regular season goes as I've outlined it, then the opposite team will be enjoying the draw odds for this match. What does that mean? Well Dallas's lineups are mostly of a similar shape, but Seattle's three lineup styles are really quite different. From a spectator's perspective, I naturally hope that Seattle chooses to stroll out a double GM lineup so I'll work under the assumption that they'll pull out all the stops and use that here. If so, I see Seattle having a nice edge on the top two boards with Dallas having a reasonable edge on the bottom two. In total I would probably give the slight score advantage to Seattle. Also, no defending champion has even made it back to the Semifinals in the next year and both teams overcame draw odds in the Wildcard Round last year so I think Seattle pulls off the upset here also.
Boston Blitz vs. New York Knights:
I know readers may not be pleased about me always predicting this to be the East Semifinal Match, but when it continues to be correct and to me is far and away the biggest rivalry in the USCL, it's not unnatural to hope for it either. Unfortunately, I can't rely on my traditional anecdotal evidence to help guide me as I have in many other places, since each team has gotten the better of the other once in the last two such encounters. There is however, one big difference this year should things unfold as I have described. If this match occurs as such, Boston will have both draw odds and color choice. While I feel the ability to choose colors for a particular match can range from very mildly relevant to extremely important depending on the players on the respective teams, I think for the players on these teams, this match falls into the latter category. That being the case, it seems Boston will repeat as Eastern Champions.
San Francisco Mechanics vs. Seattle Sluggers:
A rematch of the 2006 Semifinals; like the other Semifinal, the important difference of the first team receiving both draw odds and color choice could prove quite pertinent here as while I don't feel it's quite as important a consideration as it is in the Boston vs. New York encounter, it definitely is relevant for the players on these teams still. Assuming Seattle again chooses their double GM lineup, it doesn't seem especially dissimilar to the Dallas vs. Seattle Wildcard; again I give Seattle an edge on the top two boards, and San Francisco an edge on the bottom two. However, here I feel the Mechanics edge on Board Four is even larger and with the ability to properly utilize that by picking the color of that board, I think San Francisco takes this.
San Francisco Mechanics vs. Boston Blitz:
The structure of how this match might go down, depends greatly on which direction Boston chooses to go in their lineup style, as who is better on what board can really vary. The Blitz seem likely to have the edge on the top board, but two and three really depend on the choices each team makes. However, using current ratings, it seems almost certain that the Mechanics will have a large rating advantage on Board Four. Since I expect them also to edge the Blitz when it comes to regular season record and allow themselves to pick colors for this match, those two jumps will give them what they need to become the first team to repeat as USCL Champions.
Once again, I hope everyone enjoys this USCL Season even more than last season. Good luck to all teams and players involved, and hopefully you all can provide us observers with even more entertainment than you have in the past years. As always, any comments, suggestions, or flames (especially the latter) are appreciated!