Can SK Telecom continue their win streak? | LCK Week 8 Preview
With the final three weeks of regular season play upon us, the playoff picture is tighter than ever before as SKT, Gen.G, Afreeca Freecs and Kingzone Dragon-X all have a viable road to the postseason. Even though their records were less than affable in the early goings of Summer, SKT have rallied back in superb form as they now ride a seven game win streak with only one lost game at the hands of Griffin. This week, the mid table tests against KZ and Afreeca will give them an exact gauge on just how good they are as a team with Lee “Effort” Sang-ho now featuring regularly in the bot lane.
With only five spots up for grabs in the LCK, the next three weeks will be critical for all teams involved as they put together their final push for playoffs.
War of attrition
This split more than ever, LCK has proven itself to be a season full of ups and downs, and form within this league is anything but permanent at the highest level. Damwon Gaming are enjoying their moment in the spotlight behind the stellar mechanics and leadership ability of Kim “Canyon” Geon-bu and Heo “ShowMaker” Su, who have stood out as the most prominent talents on the team thus far.
Regardless of momentum, the first place spot heading into LCK Summer playoffs has always been a doomed position with very few #1 seeds actually winning the title. While Damwon have shown consistency and stability across their ranks, there are a few factors that can limit their success given the structure of playoffs not being so kind to the top seed in years past. The ‘new blood’ on their roster will likely face the same hurdles of pressure that Griffin faced last year as the revelation of LCK, but there’s no doubting their poise in the driver’s seat thus far hasn’t been impressive.
The only thing derailing their chances of a miracle run will be the surging forces just outside the top three in recent weeks. Gen.G, SKT and Afreeca have all made massive strides in the past months as they now sit just two series outside of second place. If Damwon becomes a lock for the playoffs and Sandbox Gaming follows suit, the toss up between Griffin, Gen.G, SKT, Afreeca and KZ will prove to be the best finale to an LCK season we have seen in years.
In order to win, every team on the top half of this list will need consistency, poise and a little bit of luck to ensure their pathway to playoffs, and possibly the World Championship gauntlet afterwards. Strength of schedule will surely play a part in the outcome, so to forecast these next three weeks we must look at the past in order to predict the future.
The thing about momentum
As previously stated, runs of dominance within the LCK are oftentimes short lived, but the leaders in this Summer split have developed a sound gameplan around their playmaking jungler and mid, and the developments have been extremely fun to watch. In second place, Sandbox Gaming’s seemingly underwhelming roster has blossomed in this Summer split, as their record with half of the games played has been stellar to say the least.
However, the number of top ranking teams still on the horizon for Sandbox Gaming does raise questions for a team that has faced relatively few setbacks so far this Summer. The rise of Damwon and Sandbox was no doubt aided by the decline of top level teams such as SKT, Gen.G and kT Rolster. As kT Rolster continues middling at the bottom of the standings, the other teams have resurged in a big way as their veteran players have risen to prominence with the changing of each patch.
SK Telecom is at the forefront of this boom, with Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and co. looking dominant in their recent games. Before Week 7, you can argue SKT’s winning streak was built off of beating smaller teams, but their wins this week against a resurging Griffin and Gen.G shows that this team isn’t going anywhere, and they’re on the cusp of regaining their Spring Championship form.
Beating Griffin is surely a bigger task than the matches SKT will face this week, as Griffin remain more dynamic and lethal on multiple lanes. Against KZ and Afreeca, SKT will be able to focus much more on one side of the map as they look to enable their win conditions.
Can Griffin regain form?
Afreeca Freecs run of form recently has been a joy to watch, with Son “Ucal” Woo-hyeon and Kim “Kiin” Gi-in returning to prominence. Ucal’s best moments as a member of kT Rolster has yet to surface, but it seems like the synergy has begun to set for the Freecs and their matchup against SKT this week is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated on the docket. They face an excruciatingly tough schedule with Damwon and SKT in back-to-back sets.
Griffin have a chance to take a bite out of Sandbox Gaming’s lead in the standings this week. Park “Viper” Do-hyeon was a shining light on the roster despite his team looking out of sorts in their series against SKT. With the right amount of focus on his lane, Griffin can put together a much needed win over a higher ranked opponent if they can minimize the damage done at Top lane.
On the flip side, Park “Summit” Woo-tae has enjoyed an MVP caliber season for the side of Sandbox. Against lesser teams, Sandbox have no problem whatsoever establishing their best player as their win condition, and doing that in similar fashion against Griffin will be a necessary first step if they wish to win this series on relatively simple terms. With the regular season officially in crunch time, the winners of these series will give plenty of intel towards who will be the stronger side come playoffs.
LCK Week 8 Predictions
- SKT (2-0)
- Damwon Gaming (2-0)
- kT Rolster (1-0)
- Griffin (1-0)
- Gen.G (1-0)
- Sandbox Gaming (1-1)
- Jin Air Green Wings (0-1)
- Kingzone-DragonX (0-2)
- Afreeca Freecs (0-2)
- Hanwha Life Esports (0-2)