Saturday, March 24, 2007

Eagles take 1-0 series lead

The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles survived a few first period jitters and delivered very solid second and third period performances en route to a pretty nice 4-1 win over the St. John's Fog Devils in Game One of their opening round best-of-seven series, last night at C200.

The win occurred in front of a boisterous playoff crowd of just under 4000, many of them clad in their white playoff t-shirts. Fans deserve a lot of credit for really bringing it for the first playoff game and creating a pretty good atmosphere. The intensity in the rink was clearly stepped up a notch from the regular season.

Things got off to a bit of a rocky start when the Fog Devils scored a shorthanded goal very early on in the game to open the scoring. The goal came as a result of an unnecessary icing on an Eagle powerplay, a cleanly lost ensuing draw in the defensive zone, and very poor defensive zone coverage on the Fog Devil possession (not to mention a really juicy rebound given up). But in what may have been the most important play of the game, Cape Breton got the goal back IMMEDIATELY, on the same powerplay in fact (Oskars Bartulis low wrister from the point tipped in by Dean Ouellet). Making amends right away for that ugly shorthanded goal against really helped avoid any early-game panic setting in, for either the players or the fans.

Those two goals were the only ones of the first period, meaning the Eagles escaped with a 1-1 tie in a period where they showed typical "first period of the playoffs" jitters. In period two, Cape Breton started to really carry the play and take it to the Fog Devils with confidence; a number of consecutive powerplays didn't hurt either. At the very end of one powerplay, James Sheppard's off-wing blast found the top corner glove side on Fog Devil netminder Ilja Ejov for a 2-1 Eagle lead. Later in the period, on a five-on-three advantage, some patience and fine passing by the Eagles' #1 powerplay unit saw Paul McIlveen move in really deep from his point position and bury a Cam Fergus pass top shelf for a 3-1 Cape Breton lead after two stanzas.

It was a very relaxed and confident Eagle team in period three, as they wore down the clock with smart passing and solid defensive play. St. John's never really did threaten to get back in the game. McIlveen added his second of the game to round out the scoring, when he pumped home his own rebound after being robbed by Ejov on a one-time attempt in the slot. McIlveen's two goals are a great start to the playoffs for a guy who had a very good playoff showing for Cape Breton last year. Hopefully this guy can keep on delivering clutch playoff points!

The Eagles also scored three powerplay goals in the game, an encouraging stat for fans who were a bit worried about the powerplay heading into the postseason. Granted, one or two of the PP goals weren't exactly your typical powerplay goal (sustained pressure, lots of passing, etc), and there were several powerplays where the team didn't really get anything going, but at the end of the day, you have to be happy with 3/8 on the powerplay. Cape Breton was also excellent on the penalty kill, killing off all eight Fog Devil powerplays, including a 4:00 penalty to Brad Gallant and a two man disadvantage late in the second period. Many players deserve a lot of credit for their fine work on the PK, too many to really start listing.

Also key was the Eagles' physical play and grit. Going into the series, most agreed that Cape Breton had St. John's outmatched in most categories related to pure talent, and that the Devils would have to even the score by outdoing t Eagles in terms of physical play and grit. However, the Eagles may have surprised the Fog Devils last night, as it was actually the home team that dictated the play in terms of physicality and grit. At the very least, we matched them in this aspect of the game, and in my opinion we actually set the tone, instead of the other way around. This of course has to continue tonight, and throughout the series.

Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec wasn't tested overly often in the final two periods, but was solid when he had to be in getting his playoff off to a good start. And Luc Bourdon, who had a lot of people watching for a more intense performance from him than he had delivered in most regular season games, brought that intensity that we need to see from him. He was physical and involved, and ended up picking up second star honours. After an underwhelming second half of the regular season with the Eagles, it's time for Bourdon to really show us why we acquired him here in the playoffs, and he got off on the right foot last night by visibly stepping up the intensity.

The only glaring minus on the night is that Jonathan Laberge left the game in the second period following a mid-ice collision and never did return. He left the ice seeming to favour his left leg. I have yet to hear an injury report, but we obviously hope he won't be out for too long a time. He had been getting his playoffs off to a fine start as the third line center, almost scoring on a couple of great chances, and winning four or five pretty important faceoffs in his period and a half of action. Here's hoping this kid is OK; after all, he lost all that long hair in favour of the mohawk to play some playoff hockey!

Very positive start to the playoffs last night at C200, and as said a very fun playoff type atmosphere in the stands, but the team and its fans can't get too too high; they have to do it all over again tonight in Game Two at the Centre. I don't have much to say entering Game Two; as long as the Eagles keep up the intensity they showed in Game One, and keep doing the little things right, things should be OK in the long run.

I'm pumped for Game Two tonight, let's keep the momentum rolling, and see you all at the rink!!!!!

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

A NICE START TO THE POST-SEASON WITH A VICTORY. ALTHOUGH IT DIDN'T LOOK THAT GREAT IN THE FIRST PERIOD, WITH THAT SHORTHANDED GOAL BUT THE BOYS RESPONDED VERY NICELY A REAL TEAM EFFORT THE BOYS DOMINATED THE REST OF THE GAME AFTER THE FIRST PERIOD ALOT OF INTESITY FROM THE BOYS AND THE FANS AS WELL VERY BOISTERIOUS THROUHOUT THE WHOLE GAME (but i think instead of giving out t-shirts they should give away noise-makers that would really pump up the boys)i do expect a larger crowd at the nest tonight go eagles go keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

Just getting home from the game tonight,happy that the Eagles won again but super pissed off at the actions of the fogdevils in the third period!!!!
Not only did they pull, hang, punch,
basically maul James Sheppard and a few of the other Eagles,they were out for blood!
Hitting is a part of hockey but some of those thugs should be in the U.F.C not hockey.
Tim Spencer couldn't carry James Sheppards hockey bag for heavens sakes.He along with Ryan Graham,Nicolas Bachand, Kenny Pennell looked like real "winners"
Not only are they terrible hockey players but they have terrible sportsmanship!
Hopefully Bartulis and Laberge will be O.k and ready to play in NFLD.
I really hope that there will be some suspensions for the fogdevils,
Ryan Graham imparticular.
Oh,and how can I forget the top notch job done by the refs Hebert and Langille.Those guys should be reffing minor hockey at best!!

Lets finish them off boys in NFLD.

GO EAGLES GO

Inside the Nest said...

Anonymous- Ryan Graham does not belong among those guys you listed as "terrible hockey players". He had 37 goals and 74 points this season.

That said, his hit from behind on Bartulis tonight was reprehensible and he can enjoy the next game from the stands.

Anonymous said...

inside the nest,I understand that Ryan Graham is a "good" player but last night I was really, really pissed off as many fans probably were.
That being said,having 74 points doesn't make me respect him as a player. He was steady whining to the refs after every whistle, along with Spencer!
James Sheppard takes the most abuse from any opposing team that I have ever seen! He has to take this game in and game out without loosing his cool but in my eyes, he isn't getting the respect from the refs. I understand that the opposing team is going to do this every game because this is the only way they have any hope of containing him but the refs have to make "the call"each and every time.
Anyway, thats was my point last night.

you've got them where you want them boys, down 2 - 0 , so go in for the kill !!!!!!!

P.S - I will be on any bus leaving Sydney for a road trip thats for sure!

GO EAGLES GO

lou said...

the fog devils know that this is the only way they can compete with the eagles,but it ain't workin.i hope the eagles steam roll them the next two games.the officiatin is terrible,its almost like they are afraid to let the eagles blow them out.good luck in NFLD guys.

Anonymous said...

well i agree that graham is a good player but hes a dirty player and thats why i dont like him. i also dont like welcher either i think him as well is also a very dirty player. that team is made of players who sook and get dirty when they are losing. great game eagles keep it up. GOO SPENCERR!!! haha

Anonymous said...

Pascal should send the tapes of both games to league head office. One post referred to some Fog Devils as tugs. I would suggest that they are tugs playing in a fog! In that fog, I would put both referees. Do they realize that the players are all young men who should not have to risk life and limb to play hockey.
Was it not Nicholas Bachand who speared Sheppard on Friday night, who bowled Sheppard over after the whistle sounded on Saturday night (I think that was in the second period), and who sucker punched Luc Bourdon while he was involved with some else (in that incident, he raced at Luc and leapt at Luc to deliver the punch)? For running over Sheppard, no call! For sucker punching Bourdon, 2 minutes! What about all the late hits? What about the spear on Corcoran? What about the mugging of MacNeil in the dieing seconds of the game (by Spencer, one of the tugs referred to earlier)? There are a few Devils who should receive stiff suspensions for their malicious Sopranoistic attempt to justify being on the ice.
Does the “Q” believe that letting one of the premier hockey teams in the league get mugged, speared, and run over by a bunch of bottom dwelling goons is good for hockey? Pascal has to do a Patrick Roy and bring some attention to this travesty before some one gets seriously hurt! (Perhaps, this has already happened.)
Perhaps the League should give the Neanderthal Fog devils clubs, instead of hockey sticks. It may, after all, be discriminatory to require those archaic individuals to use a hockey stick as it is, in all likelihood, beyond their limited capacities and capabilities! Perhaps the League believes that it is the talent of the goons that should be allowed to be spotlighted and show cased.
This is our year and no one will rob us of what we seek!
Go Eagles go!

RinkRat said...

I personally agree with "anonymous" that Sheppard takes an absolute beating game in and game out.Because he is so strong on his skates,the hooking and holding doesn't look as bad to the refs I guess because he hardly ever hits the ice!
In saying that, the refs still have to make the call.The fogdevils can't skate with the Eagles so they try to slow them down with their dirty play!
Eagles,stick to your game. Speed,skill, and great defensive play and you will sweep these "clowns" 4 strait !!!!!!

Good luck on The Rock boys

Anonymous said...

Graham’s hit on Bartulis was a cowardly act. He should be suspended for the rest of the playoffs. However, that will only be 2 games. So may not be enough games. Even though Graham had 74 points, he is still a terrible goon player.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't at the game on saturday and i would like if some could fill me in on the actions of Ryan Graham and others ..thanks

lou said...

remember the year we had davis,flinn and lahache,this stuff wouldn't have happened.this is where a premier heavyweight comes in handy.