Thursday, March 29, 2007

Break out the brooms- Eagles complete first-ever series sweep

For the first time since moving to Sydney in 1997, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles have swept a playoff opponent in four straight games.

Cape Breton put the finishing touches on the series win with a 6-2 win over the St. John's Fog Devils at Mile One Centre last night, becoming the first of Cape Breton's "main" hockey teams to sweep a best-of-seven series since the 1993 Cape Breton Oilers dispatched (note the irony coming up here) the St. John's Maple Leafs in four straight in the second round en route to winning the Calder Cup as AHL champions. The Eagles are hoping that there is something about sweeping St. John's in the playoffs that correlates with winning league titles!

It was the usual suspects hitting the scoresheet for Cape Breton last night, as the team's "best players continue to be their best players", as the old cliche goes. Cam Fergus led the way with a brace of goals (one on the powerplay, and a shorthanded laser beam to the top shelf), while Dean Ouellet, Paul McIlveen, Robert Slaney, and James Sheppard added singles. Ondrej Pavelec played the first two periods of the win before giving way to David Davenport for period three, apparently at his own request.

The Eagles outscored St. John's 18-6 over the course of the four-game series, and their powerplay clicked for 10 goals on 30 opportunities, or a 33.3% success ratio. Everyone stepped up and contributed to the victory in some way, and no serious injuries were sustained in the series. As long as the sweep doesn't make the boys overconfident, we can't possibly have asked for a much better outcome from this opening round series.

The team will now enjoy nine days to rest before Round 2 opens on Friday, April 6 against a yet-to-be-determined opponents. This will be great for any guys who may have nagging injuries. Nine days off can be dangerous, as it can allow a team to get stale and lose momentum, and it's up to the guys and the coaching staff to remain intense and ready in practice so as to hit the ground running in the next playoff series.

As for their rd 2 opponent, there are still three possibilities as to who it will be (Moncton, PEI, and Acadie-Bathurst), but it's really starting to look like it is going to be the Bathurst Titan. Moncton currently trails Halifax 3-2 in their series, and lost Game 5 by a score of 5-0. As for the Rocket, they currently trail the Bathurst Titan 3-1 in games in their series, leaving themselves with an uphill battle. Stranger things have happened, but I for one am preparing to see the Eagles face the Titan.

As many of you diehard fans know, there is a bit of a playoff history between the Eagles and the Titan. In fact, this series would be the fifth playoff meeting between the two teams in Cape Breton's ten-year existence, if it were to happen. But I'll get into all that history in my next blog........... maybe when it's 100% certain that Acadie-Bathurst will be our next opponent.

Until then, players and fans alike, soak up a first round that couldn't really have gone much better!


tommy said...

Great accomplishment by this team, hopefully the 'machine' keeps rolling. I hope the layoff doesn't affect the team like it has done during the regular season. I myself would rather them only have 3 days in between series maximum. Next to impossible if you sweep the series, I know!

I think this Eagles team has something many other teams in the past, including some of the better ones, haven't. It's not something that you can trade, draft, or build, it's something that only happens when the right mix of personalities come together on a team, that's chemistry.

The previous years of the Eagles had much divide between the French and English players, the stars and non-stars, the rookies and vets. There was always something there that divided the team, or someone on the team that was poison in the dressing room.

This team, from a fans perspective anyway, appears to have great chemistry, they all pick up for one another, and from what I've heard the French hang with the English, the rookies with the vets, and the stars with the grinders.

Perfect example, classy move by Pavelac to request that Davy get to play the 3rd period. That was the coolest move I think I've ever heard of an player on any team doing before. Very nice!

Inside the Nest said...

tommy- Excellent comments as always!

Having said that, I'd like to vouch for the 2001-2002 team. That was a great team, very deep and filled with skilled players, and it had a little bit of everything. It still may be this blogger's favourite Eagle team to date. And I really think that that team had excellent chemistry.

I'd also like to vouch for the 2004-2005 Eagles...... the year after the "big 2004 run". The rebuilding Eagles finished above .500 that year, and it was in huge part to absolutely excellent team chemistry. Everyone truly had everybody else's back on that team, and I really have to tip my hat to leaders like Adam Pardy, Guillaume Demers, and Neil Smith, whose A-1 attitudes ensured that that team stuck together all season.

Yes, there have been a few Cape Breton teams that have had "cliques" or "divides" like the ones you described, and for many years the French-English thing was for sure an issue. But let's not forget that a couple of Eagle squads gone by had chemistry likely just as good as this year's has!

Anonymous said...

Chemistry was a subject that I never cared much for in high school. Fortunately, one learns through life’s experiences that one should never reject something now based on negative past exposure. Hence, chemistry is a much more understood subject not to be to narrowly perceived as the science dealing with the composition and properties of substances (chemical formulas etc.) but, for us in the hockey sense, as the reaction by which substances (hockey players) are produced from or converted into another substance (in this instance, a team).
We are not talking about two or more horses working together but rather of a group of people (players) working (playing) together, especially as one side in a contest (in this instance, hockey). The last game a C200 (game 2 of the series) offered elements reminiscing of the Roman Coliseum where gladiators fought to the death! Thankfully, our guys stayed focused and no serious injury occurred. It has to be a great feeling knowing that your back is covered at all times!
Over the course of the year our Section has been privileged to be able to experience some of our players first hand through their being either healthy scratches or, unfortunately, through injury. Speaking of injury, the good side is that you get to know and appreciate the regulars who normally would be playing. I can truly say, without exception, that whether or not the player(s) were injured or healthy, they were all individuals that any parent would be proud of. We have an incredible group of young men. I am so proud of them. They are a TEAM and when I consider chemistry now, I consider it in a whole new positive way.
GO Eagles Go!

tommy said...

Forgot about those Eagles teams you mentioned, but I think this team has something extra, not sure what that is, but it's something. You can sense it from the fans during the game, when you watch the players on the bench, when you see them leaving the ice etc...

One thing I would like to mention, and this is another hats off to Pavelec. Watch when the boys are leaving the ice, if you watch pavalec, he is the only player on the team that 99% of the time, whether he's backup or starter, hi-5's the kids on the left side, and then walks back to the right side and hi-5's the kids on that side too. I noticed this about a month in to the season and have watched him do that game in and game out all year long. That's fantastic!

I believe that is one aspect of all sports that the coaching and admin staff of any team should focus more attention on. Ensuring the players pay more attention to their fans. They pay the bills for these athletes, and far too often you see players walking off the ice and totally ignoring the fans (which is mostly the younger kids) who are just hoping that the player reaches up and hi-5's their hand. Something very simple that takes no extra time to do.

Inside the Nest said...

Tommy- to answer your question, yes, that's me!