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  Thursday, March 26, 2015
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xtra xtra!
Cannons Go Quietly Into Playoffs
By Paul Noonan

     With a 7-1 start, the Cannons looked like a lock for the playoffs.  With a fairly easy schedule down the stretch, first overall looked like a strong possibility, too.  Everything was going well for the Cannons whose only slip up to that point came in the opener to New Jersey.  After that the Cannons were dominant winning games with strong all- around efforts.  Down the stretch, though, the Cannons looked more like the teams they had been rolling over than the team doing the rolling.  The Cannons finished the season 1-3, their only win coming against Rochester in the end of July.  The Cannons dropped their games to the bottom feeders of the Eastern Conference (Baltimore, New Jersey and Rochester) in an ugly finish that brings questions as to how they will do in the playoffs.  Nevertheless, the Cannons’ 8-4 finish was good enough to land them a playoff spot for the fifth consecutive year (the only team in the MLL who has made the postseason every year). 


     The Cannons enter the postseason as the number three seed, and their first round opponent is conference champion Philadelphia who finished with a 10-2 record.  Entering with the Cannons is a sports fan’s favorite conundrum:  what to make of the regular season?  Every athlete will give you the old line that the playoffs are a new season, and whatever happened during the regular season is in the past.  It doesn’t mean anything.  While cliché, the line is very true.  After all, the number one seed does not win the championship every year.  So back to the conundrum.  Who do you suppose Philadelphia’s only two losses of the season came against?  That’s right, the Boston Cannons.  The Cannons took a home and home from the Barrage at the end of June which at the time put Boston in first place in the conference with a good chance to win the conference.  Even more intriguing is that in the second match- up the Cannons blew the Barrage out of the water in a 16-5 rout.  In the two games combined, the Cannons beat Philly 32-20.  Given those numbers this game shouldn’t even be close, but to think that is naïve.  After all Philly did finish the season 5-0 and beat the same three teams Boston struggled with.  Revenge will be the key to this match- up because both teams want it.  The Barrage want to prove they are in fact better than the Cannons, and hope to end their two game skid, but for Boston it is even more personal.  Two years ago, it was the Barrage who ruined the Cannons’ title aspirations as they beat Boston 13-11 at Nickerson Field to deny the Cannons the opportunity to win at home.  So while Philly will be trying to avoid going 0-3 against the Cannons this season, Boston is looking to send Philly packing the way Philly did to them two years ago.  While the second game wouldn’t indicate it, this should be a good match- up.  The Cannons’ have the league’s leading scorer in attack Conor Gill, while the Barrage have the fifth leading scorer in Roy Colsey.  The key, however, will be goaltending.  Since his near record breaking performance against the Barrage in the second meeting (he was four saves shy of the MLL record), Cannons’ goalie Chris Garrity has been average.  Both Garrity’s save percentage and goals against average rank him in the bottom half of the league’s goalies.  Philly’s goalie is a different story.  Brian Dougherty is first in the league in save percentage and second in goals against average.


     The biggest thing the Cannons will have to battle is themselves.  It’s getting to the point where it seems like it’s a Boston curse.  Like many Bruins and Red Sox teams that have disappointed, the Cannons have done the same in their short history.  In 2004, they could not utilize their home field advantage when they fell to the Barrage.  Last season, they were, on paper, an even better team, but again couldn’t find that special something in the playoffs in an early exit to the Long Island Lizards, again at Nickerson Field.  Maybe playing in L.A. will take some of the pressure off the Cannons since they won’t be playing in front of a home crowd.  Hopefully, their recent woes will be a blessing in disguise as well.  The losses may provide a humbling factor and spark a fire under the Cannons.  The fact is the Cannons have as good a chance as anyone to win.  They have proven they can beat Philadelphia, so saying they are as good as the second seed is not a stretch.  They have never played first seeded Denver, so how they would fare against them is up in the air.  In their lone match- up against the dark horse, fourth seeded San Fransisco, the Cannons won 18-15.  Yet as the cliché goes, it is a new season.  The Cannons have been successful in the regular season, but have yet to prove they are a playoff team.  With the league getting bigger and tougher, the Cannons’ may not keep getting the opportunities like they have the last couple of years.  Time may be running out for them to take advantage, so let’s hope they can end the drought sooner rather than later. 

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