The San Diego Seals are strutting into the NLL postseason like their animal counterpart would: chest out but wobbly.
Heading into the NLL Playoffs, the Seals have lost 6 of their last 7 games, although they did make sure to win their season’s final game. Yet, regardless of the Seals record in the second half of the NLL season, the team is ready to move forward, knowing that anything can happen once you’re in the playoffs.
Seals Captain Brodie Merrill summed up what it was like to win their Week 22 game against the Vancouver Warriors to snap their six-game losing streak.
“When you have that long of a losing streak, you start to carry a weight on your shoulders,” Merrill said. “So, there’s a sense of relief combined with the realization that we finished first in the West. There’s excitement to hit the reset button and kind of start this postseason with a clean slate.”
While heading into the postseason with a series of solid winning performances is the desired goal for any team, the Seals are using their prolonged losing streak as a series of lessons that have now been learned.
If you believe, as the Seals do, that they have weathered the worst of the storm, a spirited and rejuvenated effort in the postseason is very likely on the horizon.
When you have a strong leadership group that includes the likes of Merrill, Dane Dobbie, Casey Jackson, and Zack Greer, a team can feel reassured that the messaging, even through the darkest moments, is shredded hopefulness and resilience. In fact, in Captain Merrill’s eyes, that losing streak might have been the best thing to happen to the Seals all year.
“Maybe we needed that stretch to learn more about ourselves and think more critically about our game,” Merrill said. “We believe we’ve now come out the other side much stronger, and I think we’re a much better team for it.”
The start of this postseason is truly a clean slate, as Merrill suggested. The Seals are now faced with a one-and-done first-round playoff scenario where any previous results don’t matter, and the only thing that does matter is winning and moving on to the next round.
The Seals will be taking on the Wings in the Quarterfinals. These two teams have faced each other this season on April 8 in Pechanga Arena. The Wings used a 6-1 run in the second quarter to get back into the game. In typical Wings fashion, the game would go into overtime. Ben McIntosh would score the game winner only 31 seconds into the extra frame. Philadelphia is 8-0 when either tied or leading heading into the fourth quarter this year. They are also 5-2 in one goal games whereas the Seals are 3-5.
Dobbie, who has had plenty of NLL postseason experience in his career, knows how grueling the postseason grind can be. He also knows what it takes to be successful against the most formidable opposition in the league, but that doesn’t mean he’s impenetrable to anxiety and nerves that come with the season’s biggest games, especially win-or-go-home games.
“Going into this weekend will be very nerve-racking for a lot of guys, including myself,” Dobbie said. “We need to stay calm. There will be many ups and downs throughout the game; we just need to be able to manage them.”
No matter how the Seals made it into this year’s playoffs, this organization has been on the precipice of making a deep postseason run since they joined the league for the 2018-19 season. Seals GM Patrick Merrill and his front office staff have attempted to construct a team with skilled veterans with a championship pedigree and still have much to offer.
As each year has passed, the Seals have had the opportunity to fine-tune their roster with more pieces that they feel can lead them to an NLL Cup. Brodie Merrill emphasized that the time is now to show what these Seals are capable of after three seasons of honing their potential.
“We’ve been building for this window, and now we feel like the window is open to really go for [the title],” Merrill said. “The expectation is to go for the title now.”
When the Seals face the Philadelphia Wings on Friday, May 6th, inside San Diego’s Pechanga Arena, it won’t matter to either side that the Seals won the West Conference regular season title or that the Wings squeaked into the postseason, grabbing the wild card spot. What will matter, according to Dobbie, is that two fiercely competitive teams who know how to win will be leaving everything on the floor to pursue victory.
“You have to have a pretty darn good record during the regular season to even make the playoffs,” Dobbie said. “You just have to make sure once you’re in the playoffs that you leave it all out there, so at the end of the day, you can look back and say you gave it your all. We’re coming together as a team to make sure that we can do.”
Catch the Wings and Seals Quarterfinal game at 10:30pm ET on ESPNU and TSN.ca.