Burnaby's playoff partner almost decided
Rocked and Ready
It's inconceivable to think that any other team other than the Victoria Shamrocks could possibly be the Burnaby Lakers' opponent in the opening round of the Western Lacrosse Association playoffs.[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="400"] Burnaby's Robert Church tallied seven points, including four goals in the Lakers' 12-10 victory over Victoria last month. Garrett James photo[/caption]
Victoria has two bottom feeders yet to play and a victory against either one would be enough to unseat the New Westminster Salmonbellies for first place overall and home floor advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Lakers were unlucky to have missed third place, but still enter the post season as one of the hotter clubs, having finished up their season with a 5-1 record, including a 12-10 win at home against the same Shamrocks on July 22.
Upsetting a defending Mann Cup champion in the first round of playoffs is a challenge for any senior A club but Burnaby honestly believes in the quality of its dressing room, too.
It would be a disservice to the hard-working personnel of the Lakers and the grit they've progressively shown this season to dismiss them out of hand.
Do the Lakers have a shot against the 'Rocks in a seven-game semi-final season? You bet your life. But believe, too, that any margin for error will be slim.
In Burnaby's 12-10win over the Shamrocks some two weeks ago, the Lakers out shot the visitors for the only time in the three-game series and played the first half of the game lights out.
Burnaby scored three times on the power play, twice on transition and the defence allowed just two lead changes in the contest.
Rookie Josh Byrne, who scored the game-winning goal in the game, was spot on when he remarked that everything went right for the Green and White in that game,[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200"] Zac Boychuk backstopped Burnaby's win over the Shamrocks at home. Garrett James photo[/caption]
What the Lakers need in the playoffs is to get those key wins when everything doesn't go right for them.
In the opening league game between the two WLA combatants, Victoria took a big first-period lead and led through to the final buzzer.
Jesse King and Cory Conway, both of whom Burnaby did not meet in the other two contest, were game stars with five points apiece.
Last week at the Q Centre, Burnaby, without Robert Church, and Victoria swapped the lead four times and were tied on five other occasions before the 'Rocks took home a 9-7 victory.
Tyler Richards was solid in the Lakers' cage, making 45 saves and sporting a 0.833 save percentage in the loss.
Adam Shute, who was chased from the goal in the loss to Burnaby, also played well in this one.
Burnaby goalkeeping could have the edge here. Zac Boychuk, who led the WLA in goals against and save percentage this season, would likely admit he was under-form against Victoria in the other two match-ups, including the win at home.
Burnaby has managed seven power-play goals to just five for Victoria in its games with the Shamrocks. That stat must continue into the playoffs.[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="400"] Stopping Victoria's big guns will be the challenge of the playoffs for the Burnaby Lakers. Garrett James photo[/caption]
Transition goals were a key in the win over Victoria and it's no shocker to believe the Burnaby back end must continue to be lively against the tough Shamrock defence.
However, Burnaby goes into the post season as the top defensive team in the league - always a plus in the playoffs - having allowed the combined opposition on average just 7.38 goals per game this season.
Not surprisingly, Victoria enters the post season with the largest battery when it comes to fire power.
Three of the biggest concerns for Burnaby are WLA scoring champion Rhys Duch, who potted a league-high 37 goals, Corey Small and Jeff Shattler, who have all put up large numbers in the season series with the Lakers.
Burnaby's offence is not without its own punch.
Robert Church averaged more than four points per game for Burnaby, including 29 goals in just 13 games.
But what Burnaby needs more than anything is balance on offence, where Scott Jones has enjoyed a strong 50-point season and Tyler Digby has produced when in the lineup on the right side.
On the left side, Burnaby has any number of snipers - in Dane Stevens, Jason Jones, Eli McLaughlin and rookie Josh Byrne - who have all been instrumental in one game or another over the course of the season.
If the chemistry continues to come together, this should be a series well worth taking in.
If Victoria finishes in first place, the opening game of the series will be Aug. 9 at the Q Centre.
Game 2 of the series will take place at the Bill Copeland Sports Centre on Thursday, Aug. 11. Confirm times on WLA website.