Missing Pieces, new additions highlight Roughnecks-Seals clash
It’s not every day that an expansion team makes the playoffs in its first season, but the NLL struck gold with San Diego Seals. Behind several rookies who were shifted in and out of the lineup this season including their (now injured) rookie phenom, Austin Staats, the young guns meshed well with the incredible veteran talent to earn the Seals a home playoff game in the West Division Semi-Finals.
With Staats sidelined, the Seals have had solid production from players such as Dan Dawson, Kyle Buchanan and Casey Jackson, who all had 25+ goals in 2019. To put the Seals in a better position to win, they’ll want young forwards such a Connor Kelly and Turner Evans to build off a successful season in their early 20’s. It helps when all of these sharpshooters have a skilled marksman like Garrett Billings feeding them the ball. Billings just completed his fourth NLL season with at least 65+ assists and tied for the fifth most helpers this year.
In between the pipes, Frank Scigliano will be facing his old club for the first time in an NLL Playoff game. During the 2019 regular season, Scigliano held the Roughnecks to nine goals each of the three times they faced off. Those outings helped the Seals take the season-series despite the teams having identical 10-8 records.
While Pechanga Arena will be rocking, the Roughnecks will be looking spoil the Seals inaugural season with a road win. The addition of Jesse King adds depth to an offence that already has consistent, lethal firepower from Curtis Dickson (35G and 45A) and Dane Dobbie (47G and 68A) on the right and left side respectively - Dobbie’s 115-point season total will likely earn him NLL MVP honours. Although he’s only played in two games this year, King has tallied three goals in six assists.
The Roughnecks don’t live or die by Christian Bel Bianco on the floor, but they were 7-0 in games that he allowed less than ten goals this regular season - his GAA was 7.42 in those games. Del Bianco is rightly regarded as the NLL’s top up-and-coming goaltender, but they’ll need his best to stop the skilled Seals offence. In his only two playoff games in his blossoming career, Del Bianco has not had his best showings in the postseason - he allowed 12 and 14 goals in a playoff game versus the Rush and Mammoth.
Defensively, the Roughnecks have one of the best loose ball-scooping and turnover-causing teammates in the league. With a combined 297 LBs and 59 CTOs, Dan MacRae and Zach Currier have no trouble stopping opposing offences from getting going. For the Seals, they have a trifecta of stronghold defenders in Brodie Merrill, Tor Reinholdt and Cam Holding. They combined for 306 LBs and 65 CTOs.
These teams have matched up well during the regular season but have also shown inconsistencies each time they’ve battled. If they can both have every facet of their games clicking on a high-level, it’s anyone’s guess who will take this contest.