Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sea Dogs in town for a pair/upcoming stretch of games/a look at divisional battles across the league

It's been a few days since the last blog; hey, we all needed a bit of time off after that gruelling three-in-three, no? :)

The first topic at hand is obviously the visit by the Saint John Sea Dogs for two games, tonight (Thursday) and Friday night. Hopefully our Eagles are rested up after returning on Monday morning from Lewiston, and getting in a couple of good practices.

The Sea Dogs come into this pair of games with the worst record in the QMJHL, at 15-37-1-2 for 33 points. They are also just 1-8-0-1 in their last ten games. To many observers across the league, including many that will make their way to C200 tonight and tomorrow night, these two games should be easy pickings for the Eagles. However, one would think that both the Eagles and their main core of fans have not yet forgotten a lesson taught to the team by the Rimouski Oceanic just a couple of weekends ago. That lesson, of course, was that if one team shows up wanting the two points more than the other, and goes out and outworks the other, it may very well not matter how far behind in the standings, or how short they are on talent.

The absolute key to these two games is that the Eagles do whatever they can to make sure they don't take the Sea Dogs for granted, that these are actually pretty dangerous games, as a loss tonight or tomorrow night could really deflate this team. The guys have to remember how hard they worked to earn those road victories last weekend, and have to dedicate themselves to applying the same effort against Saint John. These guys are coming into our rink with pretty much nothing to lose, and that in itself makes them a dangerous hockey club.

As well, Sea Dog goaltender Travis Fullerton has stymied the Eagles on a couple of occasions in his QMJHL (last year as a member of the Lewiston MAINEiacs), and sometimes all it takes to really change the outcome of a game is a red hot goaltender. Forward Chris DiDomenico and defenceman Alex Grant have been pretty hot lately for Saint John, and you know that former Eagle Francois Gauthier is going to come into these two games with something to prove. Gauthier has really turned his season around since joining the Sea Dogs; in 18 games with the second-year club, he has 10 goals and 7 assists for 17 points.

On the whole, this entire upcoming stretch of games could be dangerous for the Eagles if they aren't properly prepared for them. Starting with tonight's contest, the team has five straight games against the "expansion teams". After the two straight tonight and tomorrow night with the Sea Dogs, the Eagles host the St. John's Fog Devils on Sunday afternoon, and then travel to the Rock for two more against the Fog Devils next Thursday and Friday. While these games are a good opportunity for Cape Breton to pick up some very important points in the standings, they are also games where upset losses could be very hard on the team's psyche. As well, Eagle clubs have over the years had a nasty trend of playing down to a weaker opponent's level, and five straight games against teams that have been among the weaker five teams in the league most of this season could be a way for the Eagles to develop some bad habits, not exactly what you want with the playoffs right around the corner.

So for those who think this next stretch of games is a great opportunity for the Eagles to cruise to an easy 8-10 points, keep in mind that this is actually a potentially dangerous part of the schedule for Cape Breton, and let's just hope that the Eagles find the best way to handle it.

Game time tonight against the Sea Dogs is the usual 7:00 PM. You would think that they may split the two goaltenders between the two Sea Dog games, and your guess is as good as mine as to which will get the call tonight. As far as the Cape Breton lineup is concerned, it should be similar to the one that finished out the road trip in Lewiston, as long as Cam Fergus didn't reaggravate his injury in that game against the MAINEiacs. The only other guy who played last weekend who may be a bit of a question mark is Spencer Corcoran; he took a high stick to the face in one of the games and went for X-rays to determine any damage. As for Scott Brannon, he has been skating with the team this week, and if all goes well, he should return for the two games in Newfoundland next week.

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I'd also like to take an opportunity to have a quick look around the league at the races for playoff positioning that are taking place. There are a number of battles to keep an eye on as we head down the stretch drive.

- First and foremost to us, of course, is the battle for first place in the East Division (and in the league) between the Lewiston MAINEiacs and our Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. As I'm sure you guys know, Lewiston currently leads this race 80 points to 78, and holds a game in hand, but the Eagles have been gaining momentum for last while...... while Lewiston has been sagging. This one should be down to the wire.

Also factoring into this race are the Moncton Wildcats, who sit five points back of the Eagles with 73 points, although they too have been sliding as of late. And if we're making it a race for first overall, you have to include the Val d'or Foreurs (75 points) and Gatineau Olympiques (72 points) from the West.

- Next down the rung in our division is a very interesting battle for third place in the division between Moncton (73 points) and the PEI Rocket (69 points). Moncton has been pretty far ahead of PEI for most of the season, but the Rocket are currently the hottest team in the QMJHL (8-1-1 in last ten games), while as said, Moncton has been sliding a little bit. PEI also holds a game in hand. Don't be surprised if the Rocket pass the Wildcats before too long.

- The following group in our division consists of 5th place Bathurst (62 points), 6th place Halifax (56), and 7th place St. John's (54 points). Bathurst was ahead of PEI for most of this season but seems to have fallen far behind in the battle for home ice advantage in the first round. I personally don't see them rebounding and challenging the Rocket in the standings, and Moncton may be too far ahead for them to catch as well. I also find it pretty interesting how close St. John's has crept up on Halifax.

- The 9th place team from the West Division crosses over into our division as the eighth playoff team. They are then seeded within our division based on their overall point total. For example, if they were 9th in the West but still managed to have more points than the 7th place team in the East, they would be the #7 East seed for the playoffs, and the 7th place team in the East would be seed #8.

Having explained that, you can factor the Shawinigan Cataractes (48 points) into the above race with Halifax and St. John's, although when you're a club that's in a freefall like Shawinigan is, six points may be too much to make up.

You can also add the Rimouski Oceanic to this race, as they still have a chance at catching the Cataractes to be the last playoff team from the West. They have 39 points, nine back of Shawinigan, but also hold two games in hand. Recently, Rimouski really made it look like Shawinigan had something to be worried about, as they went on a six-game winning streak. However, they have lost their last three since, and their chances of making the playoffs are still pretty remote.

This battle for 6-7-8 in the East is one to watch for Eagles fans, as we will most likely end up playing one of these teams in the first round of the playoffs.

- In the West, we have a crazy logjam near the top. It would take far too long to go into all possibilities, so I will cut things short by simply giving my personal views of what the races are.

I consider Val d'or (75 points) and Gatineau (70) to be slugging it out for top spot.

I then see a four-team battle for seeds 3-6 between Quebec (69), Victoriaville (68), Baie-Comeau (66), and Rouyn-Noranda (63). Your guess is as good as mine as to how these six top teams from the West are going to finish.

There is then an intriguing battle for the 7th seed between Chicoutimi (59) and Drummondville (57). Drummondville has two games in hand on the Sags, has been hot lately, and is scheduled to return superstar forward Derick Brassard to the lineup very soon, possibly as soon as Friday night. Of course, if Rouyn-Noranda keeps sliding like they have been since acquiring Mathieu Carle at the trading period, they could very well be caught by Chicoutimi and/or Drummondville.

With so many races going on pretty much all over the league, involving pretty much every team in the league but the Saint John Sea Dogs, the playoff picture still remains pretty cloudy with a month remaining in the regular season.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well it's lookin tight every were in the top of the standing but tonight it just The Eagles and Saint John Remember to keep Focues and never forget for main task eagles one game at a time no stupid Penalties make smart plays and keep working as a team Eagle you can do (GO EAGLES GO !!!)

Anonymous said...

Just arrived home from the game tonight wondering how the hell this happened again! A couple of weeks ago it was Rimouski and tonight the Sea Dogs.
Even though you guys had 41 shots on net,your play was sloppy and there was no intensity there.What ever happened to one of the guys like Gallant or Breton dropping the gloves to spark the team.there was no urgency until the last 10 minutes of the game. If this team and coaching staff expect to go deep into the playoffs,they better start to prepare for every game as a "game 7". Hope the eagles show a little more fire tomorrow night or it will be another waste of $50 in tickets!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

the sea dogs goaltender stood on his head to backstop his team with a victory which i might add were outplayed badly.the boys had alot of chances but they were hitting shinpads and skates and some nice saves by the sea dogs goalie.i think in my own opinion the fans have to step up and start cheering on our boys the minute they come out on the ice to give them some added motivation,that no team in this league is to be taken lightly.the sea dogs played the game between the two bluelines clogging the middle and sending in one forechecker all night tough to play against a team that plays the trap and chips the puck out all night.i think it is safe to say we will see a different game at the nest tonight.go eagles go

Anonymous said...

MY LORD SOMEBODY TELL ME WHATS WRONG WITH OUR SUPPOSEDLY POTENT POWERPLAY.THE BOYS AREN'T TAKEN ENOUGH SHOTS AT THE NET TRYING TO MAKE THE PERFECT PASS SHOOT AT THE NET GOOD THINGS WILL HAPPEN.7 POWERPLAYS NO GOALS AGAINST THE WEAKEST TEAM IN THE LEAGUE CMON BOYS GET IT TOGETHER.AND I MUST SAY THE REF WAS BRUTAL ONCE AGAIN.ALOT OF HOLDING AND HOOKING ON ANY OTHER NIGHT WOULD HAVE BEEN CALLED.BUT TO HAVE THAT MANY CHANCES AND NO GOALS NOT VERY GOOD HEADING INTO THE POSTSEASON.FOR A GAME THAT WAS DOMINATED BY THE EAGLES WE DESERVED A BETTER OUTCOME BUT THATS THE WAY IT HAPPENS IN THIS LEAGUE ALL YOU NEED IS A GOALIE TO BE LUCKY AND A COUPLE OF BOUNCES GONE THE OTHER WAY AND THIS IS THE RESULT A VERY IMPORTANT TWO POINTS GONE DOWN THE TUBES.NOW INSTEAD OF KEEPING PACE WITH LEWISTON WE ARE DOWN FOUR POINTS.IM SURE THE EAGLES STAFF ARE NOT VERY HAPPY WITH THIS OUTCOME BUT I AM CONFIDENT THE BOYS WILL BE THE BETTER TEAM ON FRIDAY NIGHT JUST LIKE THEY WERE THURSDAY NIGHT BUT IT IS GOING TO BE A DIFFERENT OUTCOME.GO GET THEM BOYS.STILL VERY PROUD OF YOU GUYS.

tommy said...

I wasn't at the game, I was playing hockey myself, but I usually don't go to the first home game after a 3-4 day break by the Eagles. Their play is usually less than adequate and they usually lose not because they were beat by a better team but because they played lazy, unemotional, poor defensive hockey.

I don't know why this team has a habit of doing this. But as I mentioned before, it's the coaching staff's responsibility to prepare a team for each and every game.

My guess is, with an emotionless coach like Pascal, it's hard to walk into a dressing room and fire up a team when all you know how to do is fold your arms and give dirty looks. (I do admit I am not a Pascal fan)

On the other hand, I have seen teams that Blair Joseph has coached, and I can guarantee that if he didn't feel like he was stepping over his boundaries he would have that team fired up for every game. He is an emotional coach by nature, and every team he has ever coached always played a high tempo, spirited and high intensity style of hockey. I hope they give him an opportunity to take the reigns in the near future, I think he at least deserves an opportunity.

Different topic but still somewhat related to this post... I have spoken with a few people i know who don't normally go to Eagles games but were at the 2 big almost sell-out games a few weeks back. I asked them what they thought, and all 3 said they thought the players were talented and that they were a good team, but found it very boring. They all said there wasn't enough hitting or intensity, and wouldn't pay to see them on a regular basis. I would say this is an opinion a lot of former fans share, and would be the reason for lack of attendance, and lack of noise in the building.

Oh, and to a previous post regarding the Eagles website, I agree, very poorly updated. you should at least be able to rely on your team's official web page for game results (within the same evening), as well as a related article about the game. There have been times when the final score update has gone 3 days without changing. And I have seen times when the Eagles have played 2 games in 3 nights or 3 games in 4 nights without a single news update being posted to the site about the results of the games over the 3 or 4 day span.

PS. Remember the days of Bruce Campbell, not a very good coach, but those were exciting games to watch!

CB Eagle Fan said...

Okay, now we can change our line from "remember Rimouski" to "remember Rimouski and St. John". I'm sure we will see much more in the goal-scoring this evening. If nothing else, there SHOULD be fewer defensemen for St. John tonight. An awful lot of hard shots were blocked by Sea Dog bodies. I know they are well padded and these hockey players are tough, but a few of those shots made me cringe! But they will be back, and blocking shots again - the Eagles just have to find a way to get past them, and past Fullerton! And they have to do it tonight! Lewiston is now 4 points ahead, and heading to Shawinigan, who is on an 8-game losing streak. The odds are heavily in favour of Lewiston getting another 2 points this evening, so it will be VERY important for the Eagles to also pick up 2! No goalie is unbeatable - you just have to find the way to beat him! Dino did it! It may not have been pretty, but hey, we'll take a bunch of "not pretty"s. We're not fussy! GO EAGLES GO! -you showed us you can get passed the offense and the D, now show us that you can get passed their last line of defense - their goalie!

Anonymous said...

Just looking over the Eagles web site and wondering why Daniel Fazzalari,Francois Gauthier,Stephen Ceccanese,Charlie Pens,and Mark Barberio are all 'STILL' linked to the site under the "players" section!
I have been away working in Alberta for the last 7 weeks,nice to see that I didn't miss anything.An update to the site would be nice.Maybe next year!

Anonymous said...

Same old, same old, story of taking matters for granted! When will this team learn: DON'T TAKE ANYONE FOR GRANTED!!!
Come play-off time, we'll probably meet one of the bottom dwellers first. You know that it has happened again and again to us as we meet a team that we should easily beat. Guess what, we're the ones packing our bags for the summer.The team that beat us get creamed in the next round.Is this team building an exit strategy?
I hate to sound pessimistic and negative. Problem is: how is one to make this team realize that it has a serious problem in not being able to respect all teams in this league.
Lewiston drops two places in the Top 10. The Eagles don't make the Top 10. This is a team that had the offensive and defensive player of the week award. This is a team that regularily beats the top teams (ask Lewiston) and yet we do not make the Top 10! Why? It is because of their lazy, indifferent play against weaker teams. They lack the killer instinct- the go for the jugular attitude.
The Top 10 are sellected by a panel of National Hockey League scouts. Are these guys against us or do they think that this team is under achieving. This is not the impression that you want to leave with scouts!
Ability is like a tank full of gas. By itself, it is useless yet dangerous. A commodity with tremendous potential, if handled wisely and with respect.
Come on Eagles, play to your true potential. Will you let others brand this team or will you shape it yourselves. It is your destiny so why not seize it and shape it? It is time to stand and be counted.
Enough said, have a good game tonight.

Anonymous said...

Well I was just on the eagles website with my 9 year old son. He was checking out the pictures of the players...needless to say there are at least 5 players that aren't even on our team any more. If the eagles need someone to update the website...sign me up. It has been at least 2 months since some of those trades were finalized....hello up to date???? I think not...come on people how hard is it to type...I can do it...update atleast on a weekly basis...how embarrising....

Anonymous said...

Wow - what a red hot goalie! Fullerton didn't make it easy for us. Glad to see the guys come back in such a positive fashion on Friday - good work, guys. Would like to comment on Brad Rowes article in the Post about Sawyer and the hecklers..... well done! It's about time that was addressed. We all know how talented and dependable J.C. is. I noticed that one of the usual hecklers in our section stood up and applauded when J.C. scored on Friday night and then the rest of the section applauded the former heckler. J.C. we are proud of you and your accomplishments. There are lots of true fans of yours at each and every game - so carry on........carry on!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Well, on the first note, I want to say congrats to the boys in finally picking up their game and putting it together. Winning against the Sea Dogs was nice, losing, not so nice. On the second note, I want to thank Brad Rowe, Thank you for saying such great things about Jc. I've been a fan for a while, and I couldn't stand it when people yelled and heckled him. Thanks for acknowledging the great things Jc does for the team. You said the things a lot of fans were thinking. Thank you! Way to go Jc! Keep it up! GO EAGLES GO!!!!

CB Eagle Fan said...

Okay, great game on Friday. It started a little slow in the offensive department, but the Eagles brought it home in the third. The Sea Dogs came out of it with the split though. Now we have three in a row against St. John's. I think the Eagles should learn to take it to every team right from the dropping of the puck! WE can all see it, so surely the players and coaches can as well, and will respond accordingly. Today's game should be a good one - the Fog Devils are a tough team at times. And we all know that last year's Eagles team had trouble playing at Mile One Stadium. So far this year, the Eagles have a win and an over-time loss there. I think the reason other teams have trouble in NFLD is because the fans there make it so. Let's cheer our boys loudly today, so that we can send them off to St. John's on a positive note! Let's light the lamps and cut down the fog!! GO EAGLES GO!

Anonymous said...

And speaking of a poorly updated web site.......I think there is alot the management could do to create a bigger fan base and to make the loyal ones happier. When you go to the other rinks you what these other teams do,e.g. at Christmas time during the last home game there were alot of prize draws fot the season ticket holders and the whole team came back to the ice after the game with Santa hats on and acknowledged the fans - nice touch, simple and appreciated by those in attendance. Why not play the pregame show with Ken MacNeil in C2oo after the warm-up. Fans are interested in hearing this. What does everyone else out there thin of these suggestions? Surely these suggestions are worth considering.

lou said...

another 0for on the powerplay,thats not gonna cut it come playoff time,when their powerplay was goin good they were usin sawyer and mcilveen on the points,nothing against bourdon,but he has a shoot mentality,mcilveen could shoot, but also look for oullet in front for the tips.i think theres a jinx on that 47 goal record,asselin last year and fergus this year.i hope hes healthy for the playoffs,they really don't deserve to catch lewiston after these last games,they weren't playin with enough urgency.10 or so games left,time to pull up your socks boys.

Anonymous said...

Im drained! I am also tired of trying to guess which Eagle team will show up for the game. Will it be tha "A Team", the "B Team", or the "No Show Team"!
One thing for sure: I'm no longer fooling myself about expecting
"good things" in the playoffs. I'm
tired boys: emotionally drained. I honestly don't know if I can recover. I'm at the point where I just do care anymore. Right now, I'm not looking forward to Feb 26 (PEI). How is this happening?

CB Eagle Fan said...

okay, I just read the last comment, and I think that the writer may be a little pessimistic. I would say that the teamwork was fuzzy at times, but at no point would I say that the "no show team" showed up. All three games were good, but the puck just wasn't going where we wanted it to. I think the team can get it together, and I, for one, AM looking forward to the PEI game. Maybe I'm just the forever optimist! Yes, I can see how disrupting a working line can throw things off a bit, but it will come. Or, hopefully, Fergus and Brannon will be healthy and back on the ice soon, which will get things back to normal. I'm hoping that Laberge's injury is not a major one and he will only miss that one game.
At any rate, let's not give up on this team because of one weekend at home. We've been doing so well on home ice all season, and now our away games seem to be improving too. Let's keep it up Eagles - remember, EVERY team needs to be brought down at this point. They are ALL top teams, whether they sit on the top of the standings or the bottom. GO EAGLES GO!