So, the playoffs are here. Sort of. This is technically the last round of the regular season, but in reality is just an extra round of playoffs. Unfortunately, St Louis has draw odds. Since we are looking at next weeks game as a playoff game, I will do our season recap now.
Its been a difficult year for us, losing Nakamura to St Louis. Luckily, we had Var step up and fill the void. Going into the season, we were very excited with our revamped lineup and knew people would be shocked to see Var on our lineup. Then GM Anka was unable to participate due to work load, and we had our State Champion Costin Cozianu step up in a big way. Then due to an unfortunate situation, we lost our rock, GM Serper for the season. However, after its all said and done, we are now looking a shot at the playoffs and looking for a championship.
We started off the season using a balanced lineup in week one and debuting Costin in week two, but things didn't go our way. Then, in week 3, GM Varuzhan Akobian came in and put a very impressive performance against GM Becerra to help lead the Sluggers to our first victory of the season. Var's enthusiasm was infectious, and I see why John Donaldson wanted Var on the Olympiad team so badly. Who needs cheerleaders when we have Var?
Unfortunately, in week 4, we suffered a close loss against our long time rivals, the Mechanics and we needed to stage a comeback to make the playoffs. From there on, we went undefeated, beating New Jersey and then drawing two more. Last week, we experienced our second ever win against San Francisco.
Despite going into the last week with only 4-5, we have actually scored the 2nd most points in the Western division, only short of Division champs Arizona.
Looking into our "1st" Playoff match, we are lucky that GM Nakamura is away cleaning up at the Cap D'Agde tournament and we won't have to face the deadly Triple GM lineup. On one hand, I feel that it helps our chances of scoring a victory, but on the other, I would like to face the best, only then we can see how good we are.
On Board 1, we see the matchup between long time friends, Yury Shulman and Varuzhan Akobian. They have been teammates, representing the US in various competitions, have played matches against each other, and also have had numerous training sessions together. Yury is the higher rated player, but Var has white, so its a toss up as to who will prevail.
On Board 2, we have Slava facing a big challenge in Ben Finegold. On this board, St Louis has the edge, as we have seen in the USCL, anything can happen.
On Board 3, young star Michael Lee faces IM Brooks. Brooks has been struggling this season, and Michael has looked better every match. I think Seattle has the edge here.
On Board 4, we have two underrated kids playing, Alex Guo and Spencer Finegold. It looks like Spencer will be looking to steer the game into tactical waters, where he's at his best, but in the end Alex has been remarkable this season, and he should be able to win this game too.
Given what we see, I feel like we have great chances to "advance" to the playoffs this year, but in the USCL, you never know what will happen.