The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles couldn't have asked for a much better outcome from last night's Game 3 of their best-of-seven series against the St. John's Fog Devils, played from Mile One Centre in the Newfoundland capital.
Cape Breton was able to play a very sound and effective road game for pretty much the entire 60 minutes, en route to a 4-2 victory over the Fog Devils and a commanding 3-0 series lead. This is the first time in the team's ten-year history that they have led a playoff series by a count of three games to none. It's a pretty tight stranglehold on a series, and to be quite honest, it's extremely unlikely that the Fog Devils will get back into the series now.
Chris Culligan, Paul McIlveen, and Dean Ouellet all scored powerplay goals for the Eagles, while JC Sawyer scored at even strength and had two powerplay assists. The Eagles' three powerplay goals in Game Three gives them eight powerplay goals in the series thus far, which is just great news for a Cape Breton team that saw its efficiency with the man advantage become a little bit inconsistent at times during the second half of the regular season. It's been said for years and years, that for an Eagles team to have playoff success, it needs to have a proficient powerplay, and that's exactly what we've been getting in the first three games of this playoff series. If this powerplay success can continue, it only improves our chances at advancing deep into the postseason.
As well, the old worn-out cliche says that for a team to have success, "its best players have to be its best players." That has definitely been the case for the Screaming Eagles thus far in this series. After last night's game, each of the team's top six scorers from the regular season (Culligan, McIlveen, Ouellet, Sawyer, James Sheppard, and Cam Fergus) has at least one playoff goal already, and each has been on the scoresheet many times so far in this series. As well, kingpin acquisition Luc Bourdon has elevated his play from where it was at the end of the regular season, and we need him to keep that up. Our best players have indeed stepped up and been our best players so far in this young postseason run, and that's great news for a franchise that too often in the past has seen its best players struggle to hit the scoresheet come playoff time.
Another positive to take from last night's game is that it sounded pretty clean, a nice change from the flat-out dangerous final few minutes of Game Two. A key to this series will be getting out of it without any further injury, and although the series isn't over, last night's tamer affair is hopefully a postive sign.
Another note from last night is that St. John's tried to change the momentum a bit by making a goaltending change. Despite his 40+ save effort in Game Two, netminder Ilia Ejov was replaced by backup goaltender Pierre-Alexandre Marion to start last night's contest. Marion played admirably, stopping 36 of 40 shots, but it didn't end up making any real difference for the Fog Devils in terms of the end result.
Game Four goes tonight at Mile One, and is slated for a 6:30 PM start our time (CJCB AM 1270). Last night's game started a half hour late because of inclement weather in the St. John's area. Tonight's game is a chance for the Eagles to finish off the series, and buy themselves the maximum amount of possible rest time before the start of Round Two, to help heal any nagging injuries that a few players surely have. It would also be the first series sweep in Eagles' history, and pulling it off would surely give the team a little extra swagger heading into the second round.
Not much more to say, let's just hope for the team to keep doing what it's been doing and finish things off tonight.