Monday, April 30, 2007

The two most exciting words in sports: Game Seven

Or in the case of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and their fans, the two most unnerving words in sports right now.

Things were looking pretty good when Cape Breton scored a convincing Game 4 victory at home over the Val d'or Foreurs to take a 3-1 stranglehold on the best-of-seven QMJHL semifinal. Most, myself included, really thought that the Eagles were going to end the series at home in Game #5 on Friday night but it was not to be as Brad Marchand's overtime goal stood up as the winner, sending the series back to Val d'or.

In Game 6 tonight at the Air Creebec Centre, Cape Breton outshot their Val d'or counterparts 44-24 but came out on the wrong end of a 3-2 decision. As much as it was great that the Eagles outshot their opponent by such a wide margin, most of those chances were honestly from the perimeter. Both times that Cape Breton struck in tonight's game, they allowed the Foreurs to get it back within less than a minute - totally deflating any momentum they may have gained from their tallies.

Special teams were the really glaring difference in Monday night's contest, as Val d'or went 1/4 on the powerplay and Cape Breton was shut out with the man advantage for the second straight game, going 0/5. The Eagles have not even come close to scoring a powerplay goal in either of the past two hockey games, after having so much powerplay success throughout the 2007 playoffs. If the coaching staff and players cannot find a solution to this "power outage" tomorrow, it could be "lights out" on the season.

Right now, some of Cape Breton's best players simply are not performing like their best players. Veterans like Cam Fergus, Paul McIlveen, JC Sawyer, and Oskars Bartulis have been excellent all season but seem to be going cold at the wrong time of year. The Eagles will need these key guys to turn it around tomorrow night in the winner-take-all Game 7.

As well, the Eagles absolutely HAVE to find a way to slow down Brad Marchand. He is singlehandedly killing us out there, and seems able to blow through the entire team unchecked at times. With the veteran defence corps Cape Breton has, they should be able to do a better job on this guy. Plain and simply - the Eagles have to be much more physical with Marchand.

All of that said, nothing is a disaster until that fourth game is lost. We are still just one win away from winning this series and if Cape Breton finds a way to win tomorrow night, the Game 5 and 6 losses will be forgotten soon enough. In the playoffs, momentum can shift in the blink of an eye; just look at how it happened for Val d'or thanks to the result of Game 5.

And the Eagles do have some positives to build on entering the seventh game. They outshot the Foreurs 32-15 over the final two periods, and at times Val d'or really was hanging on for dear life. If Cape Breton can pick up in Game 7 where they left off tonight with that intense play and hemming up the Foreurs in their zone, they may end up being fine. As well, the Eagles probably haven't played their best hockey in five of the six games so far (Game 4 excluded) yet the series is still tied 3-3. What happens if they happen to come out with their best hockey tomorrow night? Finally, and this may not have anything to do with the outcome of tomorrow night's game................... but for what it's worth, the road team has won all three Game 7's to have occurred thus far in the 2007 playoffs.

The key thing for players, coaching staff, and fans alike right now is to not panic. Many a Stanley Cup champion or QMJHL winner has had its back against the wall in a Game 7 somewhere along the line in their ride to glory. Some have even blown 3-1 leads along the way and still found a way to lift the Cup at the end of the day. Look no further than last season's Carolina Hurricanes, who let a 3-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final slip through their fingers only to end up winning Game 7. Of course, they got to play Game 7 at home....... ours is on the road. But honestly, if we can only beat Val d'or once out of four tries in their building in a playoff series we do not deserve to advance to the next round.

This is the ultimate test of the resiliency and character of this Eagle hockey team, and few if any have doubted this team's mettle in those regards this season. We cannot give up on this hockey team until the final horn goes tonight. If we do, how stupid do we look if the Eagles end up winning Game 7 and going on to lift the President's Cup?

The 2007 playoffs have seen us FINALLY beat Bathurst........... FINALLY win at the KC Irving Centre............ and FINALLY break that five-year-long playoff overtime drought. All of that tells me that anything is possible.

Keep believing, guys. You may end up being glad you did.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The "unsung hero" local boy is unsung no more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chris Culligan made Eagle history in a plethora of ways tonight, by scoring the game winner in Game 3 of this league semifinal series vs Val d'or in overtime ON A PENALTY SHOT.

For those of you who aren't quite aware how rare an occurrence that is, I'd say it ranks up there as pretty much the Halley's Comet of hockey......... a playoff overtime winner on a penalty shot. ESPECIALLY as far into the postseason as the third round.

Utter delirium ensued in the C200 crowd, with many speculating that the crowd reaction for the goal was the most emotional ever seen since the Screaming Eagles came to town. This blogger remembers a couple of goals in the 2002 Halifax series that at least give it a run for its money, but no matter - it was definitely a moment that will live on for a long, long time......... especially if the Eagles go on to win the series.

The "made for Hollywood" overtime winner saved the Eagles from what could have been a crushing defeat, as they had blown leads of 3-0 and 4-3 earlier in the game.

In the two games in Val d'or, Culligan had just one assist while James Sheppard was held pointless. They needed to come up big tonight, and did they ever respond. James scored a goal and an assist, while Chris had two goals and two assists including the potentially-legendary overtime winner.

What's weird about this is that Cape Breton fans didn't see a single game go to overtime all season or playoffs at C200 leading up to tonight. As well, only one Eagle game all season went into a penalty shot shootout. It was in Moncton. Wanna guess who scored the penalty winner for Cape Breton in that game? ;) One Chris Culligan, of course!

With that, Cape Breton takes a 2-1 lead in this ultra-tight semifinal series with Val d'or, with Game 4 going tomorrow night from C200. That is also historically significant in that a 2nd win in the 3rd round of the playoffs means that this year's Eagles have now officially gone farther in the postseason than any Eagle team has ever gone before. The 2002 Eagles lost the third round 4-1 in games.

Not much time to savour this win, right back to the rink for another HUGE game tomorrow. We let these guys back into this series once when they won Game 2 in Val d'or.............. we don't want to let them back in it a second time.

There could be pages and pages written on tonight's game, as it was one of the most exciting and action-packed Eagles games ever, but for now I'll just leave it all at that. Not much time to savour this win, as it's right back to the rink tomorrow night for another HUGE game. We let these guys back into the series once when they won Game 2 in Val d'or........... we don't want to let them back in it a second time. Be ready to bring the intensity just as loud and proud tomorrow night as you did this past night, Eagles fans. C200 was HOPPIN for Game 3, and the Eagle fanbase should be proud of a job very well done!

Finally, in terms of the raw collection of talent assembled on the ice, it may have been the highest calibre of hockey we've ever seen in a Cape Breton Screaming Eagles hockey game. These are two serious QMJHL heavyweights, both dotted with future NHLers, going toe-to-toe. It's a huge treat to watch, and anyone who wasn't at Game 3 owes it to themselves to get down to C200 tomorrow and Friday nights to see this stuff.

Despite tonight's deliriously gratifying win, we all know that the Eagles are capable of a better 60-minute performance. Let's hope we see that tomorrow night as the team strives to put a stranglehold on this series and go ahead three games to one.

See you at the rink!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Game 3 tomorrow; get ready to ROCK the Nest!!!

Going into the first two games in Val d'or, most fans felt that if the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles could attain a split of those two games, that they'd be in good position heading home for three straight games at a rocking and sold out C200.

Mission accomplished.

Now, the team and its fans have to take advantage of these home games. As the title of this blog says, get ready to rock the Nest, because these are the biggest games we've seen there in five years. Two exciting teams that are built for a run at a championship. Tons of interesting subplots. This series seems to have it all. An unforgettably raucous atmosphere at C200 would just put it over the top. The fans in Val d'or definitely brought it; now it's up to us to match that intensity. Our crowd has been great all year, so I think we can make for an atmosphere that hasn't been seen since the 2002 series against Halifax!

The Foreurs had the upper hand in both games in Val d'or, but now the series shifts to C200. Here, not only do the Eagles have the home crowd behind them, but they also have the all-important benefit of "last change"....... i.e. they get to wait until Val d'or throws a line out on the ice before deciding what line they want to counter with. This could be of great benefit to Cape Breton as they will probably get to use the Chris Culligan-James Sheppard-Scott Brannon line to try and neutralize Brad Marchand, who as predicted has been doing most of the damage for les Foreurs. Marchand was given too much room to move in the first two games, and if the Eagles are to have success in this series, they will have to slow him down and frustrate him.

All in all, Cape Breton has been an excellent home team all year, so there is much reason for optimism heading into Game 3 with the series tied 1-1.

Sheppard, Culligan, and Cam Fergus have been excellent and consistent producers for the Eagles all season, but only managed two "second assists" among them in the two games in Val d'or. Sheppard was actually held pointless. Therefore, look for these three guys to factor in on the scoresheet in the three upcoming home games in this series.......... they usually aren't held scoreless for too long. It is also hoped that Paul McIlveen can continue to be the hot hand that he was up north, that Dean Ouellet can continue to be the silent producer he's been all playoffs, that Jo Laberge can continue his timely postseason scoring, and that our defence corps can tighten up and hold the Foreurs at bay. The Eagles gave up 36 and 42 shots against in the first two games, which is a bit uncharacteristic of our team. Look for the shots against to come down in the next couple of games.

One final interesting twist going into tomorrow night's pivotal Game Three is that goaltender Jeremy Duchesne is said to have returned to the Foreurs and will most likely get the start in goal tomorrow night, relieving Raffael D'Orso who played the first two games. This development only further thickens the plot of a series whose plot is already quite deep. I expect that if he is in goal tomorrow night, Duchesne will be extremely hard to score on. Thankfully we counter with the league's best goaltender in Ondrej Pavelec; let's hope that he's at 100% after taking a few rough rides during Game Two that led some to question whether or not he was maybe hurting a little bit during that contest.

I can't really build this game up any more. It's the third round of the playoffs, against an extremely exciting and exotic team. There should be a loud and raucous sellout crowd. It's a chance for our Eagles to advance farther than they've ever advanced before. It's games like this that the entire season has been building towards.

I could go on and on............ but it would be pointless. It's as simple as this: if you're not ready to tear the roof off of C200 for this one, you may want to check your pulse.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Great teams find ways to win games they shouldn't!!!!

For two periods tonight, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles were quite outclassed by the Val d'or Foreurs.

That didn't end up mattering though, as Cape Breton found a way to score twice in the third period to tie the game, regain the momentum and carry the play for the first extended period of time in the contest, and force OT.

That set the stage for, believe it or not, the first Eagle playoff overtime win since Andre Martineau scored to end Game 2 of the 2002 second round series vs Halifax. The Eagles had lost EIGHT playoff OT games in a row in the meantime.

Early in the extra frame, Paul McIlveen scored one of the biggest goals in franchise history, when his snapper from about the top of the circle found the top shelf on the glove side of Val d'or goaltender Raffael D'Orso. This set off pandemonium on the Eagles' bench, and in many homes throughout Cape Breton where fans were gathered together to watch this huge game.

Ondrej Pavelec was the game's first star, and for extremely good reason. The Eagles were dominated in the first two periods, and Pavelec was by far the biggest reason that Cape Breton was even still in the game. He made several game-saving stops throughout the night, showing the Abitibi region of Quebec why he is the #1 goaltender in this league. Without this guy tonight, we fall behind about 4-0 after two periods, in my books.

In the playoffs, sometimes you have to find a way to win a game you don't really have any business winning. The Eagles somehow managed to do that tonight. It's good to know that the team played their worst game of the playoffs to date, and still managed to win. That said, much better games are needed from the team throughout the rest of the series, as I honestly doubt Val d'or lets us off the hook like that again.

The Foreurs showed us for much of tonight's contest that they are a FAR cry from the teams we faced in the first two rounds. They are extremely skilled and speedy, and boast some borderline ridiculous high-end talent in Letang and Marchand. Cape Breton seemed overwhelmed by Val d'or's speed and skill in the first two periods tonight, and will have to find a way to play entire games the way they played the third and OT if they are to have success in this series.

Expect Val d'or to come out with fire in their eyes tomorrow night in Game 2 to redeem themselves from the one that got away, but you would also think that Cape Breton would come out with a better all-around game as well.

In any event, one of the most thrilling wins in years tonight, and the standard playoff goal of a split on the road is already complete.

Game 2 goes tomorrow night at 8:00 PM AST, also televised/webcasted Eastlink.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

An outlook on Eagles-Val d'or

Well here we are, finally on the eve of one of the biggest playoff series in team history. It's only the second time in the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' ten-year existence that they've reached the third round of the playoffs, the first time coming in 2001-2002 when they faced the Bathurst Titan and lost in five games. That loss hurt that year, and fans have been eagerly waiting for a return to round three for some redemption, and they'll finally get their chance to see it this year against the Val d'or Foreurs. The only playoff series the Eagles have been involved in that I can think of as having been more anticipated than this one would have been the 2001-2002 second round series against the Halifax Mooseheads, which received extra hype for obvious rivalry-related reasons.

Not only is this series a glorious opportunity for Cape Breton to move on to the QMJHL final for the first time, but it could also be the source of some of the most exciting and highest-calibre hockey ever seen at C200 since the Screaming Eagles landed in 1997. Both teams involved in this series have lineups dotted with big names and impact players at all positions, both teams can play any style of hockey game you want (freewheeling, defensive, you name it) and most pundits around the league see the Eagles and the Foreurs as being extremely evenly-matched. At the Christmas trade period this season, no two teams made a bigger statement that they were going for it this year than Cape Breton and Val d'or, and here they are on a semifinal collision course. It's extremely exciting stuff.

With all of that said, let's look at how the teams match up:


Both teams have an extremely deep and potent offense. Cape Breton has two full lines who can score with the best of them (Ouellet-Fergus-McIlveen and Culligan-Sheppard-Brannon), and can also get some decent scoring from third line members Slaney and Laberge. They also receive some offense from blueliners Sawyer, Bartulis, and Bourdon.

Val d'or has about seven forwards and two defencemen who score on at least a fairly consistent basis.

Those seven forwards are Brad Marchand, Mathieu Roy, Jerome Samson, Felix Schutz, Martin Thibeault, Marc-Andre Cote, and Julius Sinkovic. The two extremely offensively-gifted defencemen are Kristopher Letang and Sebastien Bisaillon.

So far in these playoffs, Marchand and Letang have been the rock stars. Marchand has 23 points in 9 playoff games, and Letang 19 points in 8. While Val d'or has a ton of threats, it's clear that THESE TWO GUYS are who the Eagles will have to really key in on and try to shut down. If these two guys are shut down, that may be enough to break down this Val d'or machine, because although the Foreurs have a lot of guys who can score, they rely quite a bit on these two. One only has to look at the game summaries of their playoff games to date. There aren't too many goals that Marchand and/or Letang aren't in on.

Roy is their finisher; he had 50 goals last year for Bathurst and 42 for Val d'or this season. However, I don't quite find he can make things happen out of nothing like Marchand and Letang can. Samson is an awesome two-way player who had 44 goals and 99 points to lead the Foreurs in regular season scoring this year. He won a President's Cup with Moncton last year, and has an incredible work ethic and character to go along with his talents. He's a real playoff guy who will be lethal. Schutz seems to be one of those "final piece of the puzzle" type trade deadline pickups........ he's been playing excellent hockey since being rescued from the doldrums of Harbour Station and the Saint John Sea Dogs. Finally, Bisaillon is Letang's partner in crime on the blueline, and teams up with Letang to form probably the deadliest due on the point on the powerplay in the league. He has a rocket of a shot and, while his numbers are a bit down this year, he had 35 goals last year.

How do the two teams' offenses stack up?

While once again both teams have excellent scoring, and while Val d'or may possess the league's best overall hockey player in Letang, I think that Cape Breton has a little bit deeper an offense that Val d'or has. With the Eagles, which line do you shut down? The one consisting of a 40 goal scorer/a 53 goal scorer/a 37 goal scorer, or the one with James Sheppard? Val d'or, while they also have a ton of scoring options, seems to rely a bit more on a couple of select players, namely Marchand and Letang. On the other hand, no CB players have been scoring at the crazy paces that those two have been thus far in the playoffs. If they can continue scoring at such torrid rates, the Eagles may be in trouble. You can expect the Culligan-Sheppard-Brannon line to see a lot of ice against the line with Marchand and Roy.

It's extremely close, but I think I'd give an ever-so-slight edge to Cape Breton on offense.


Cape Breton has a very uniform "top four" that can be tossed over the boards all game long and shut down opponents. It consists of pairings of Sawyer/Bourdon and Bartulis/Prokopetz. In this, the Eagles essentially have two legitimate "top pairings". As #'s 5-6, Swit and Corcoran have been steady and reliable, although whether or not they receive quite as much ice in this series as they did in the last two remains to be seen. #7 (or 6-B) Etienne Breton is ready to return from his broken jaw, but I don't know how easy it would be to work him back into the lineup at this stage of the playoffs.

Val d'or relies a ton on their twin superstar two-way defencemen, Letang and Bisaillon. Letang has cleanly established himself as the best overall defender in the league, and possibly even the best overall player in the Q at any position this season. He's good enough to turn a series around by himself. After that, Vdo's #3-4 are serviceable defensive defencemen Louis-Etienne Leblanc and Samuel Richard. I honestly don't know too much about #'s 5-6-7-8 Jason Legault, Cedric Archambault, Patrice Daneau, and Shawn Morton-Boutin. Legault was the 3rd overall pick in the 2004 midget draft (same draft where James Sheppard went #1 overall), but has far from lived up to expectations at the major junior level.

Overall, while the Foreurs have the best defenceman on either team in Letang, Cape Breton's D corps looks a fair bit deeper than Val d'or's. After the top two, there seems to be a bit of a dropoff on the Foreur blueline to the rest of the pack, while Cape Breton can throw out two real #1 units.

Give Cape Breton the edge on overall defensive depth, but is Letang good enough to make up for that spread?


Ondrej Pavelec of the Eagles vs Jeremy Duchesne of the Foreurs............ that's a goaltending battle if there ever was one, and I see very little to choose between the two goalies. Both are among the top three in the league as far as I'm concerned. A battle between these two over a long series would probably be a stalemate for quite a long time, and it would basically be a situation of who ends up blinking first. Having said all of that, whichever team receives better goaltending in this round is likely to win the series. Pavelec needs to remain on top of his game and outduel the technically sound and playoff-proven Duchesne. Fans may remember Duchesne from his extended stay with the Halifax Mooseheads, where he became a very familiar foe to the Screaming Eagles.

Sadly, Duchesne will not be available to start the series as he has taken a leave of absence from the Foreurs due to the passing of his father, Gaetan Duchesne. Raffael D'Orso will be given the nod between the pipes for Val d'or for the time being, and will start Game 1 tomorrow night. He'll continue to start until if/when Jeremy is ready to return. D'Orso is 17 years old, but isn't just any rookie; he was good enough to make Canada's U-18 team this past summer, and is considered to be a solid NHL draft prospect. While he is raw and doesn't quite have the veteran experience Duchesne has, he'll be no pushover in the Val d'or net. He was first star in a 4-1 Val d'or win in his only start against the Eagles this year.

Whether it's Duchesne or D'Orso in the Val d'or net, Pavelec will have to be on top of his game like he's been since Christmas in order to give our team the goaltending edge it needs in this series.


Both teams have absolutely lethal powerplays. Cape Breton ranks 1st in the postseason at 38.0%, while Val d'or is 4th at 24.6%. The two powerplays are a lot closer than those numbers indicate. Cape Breton has finally seemed to find two really good PP units that can both realistically threaten to score, and powerplay success has been a huge part of their playoffs so far. This HAS to continue vs Val d'or. The Foreurs, if I'm not mistaken, use one powerplay unit a lot more than they use the other, as they really only have two defencemen on the team that can play the point on the PP. Their main PP unit is a fully loaded one; Roy-Marchand-Samson up front with Bisaillon-Letang on the points. Take dumb penalties, and you know that stacked unit makes you pay big time.

On the penalty kill, Cape Breton is 1st in the playoffs at 86.0%, while Val d'or is 3rd at 82.5%. The Eagles' three main forward units on the PK are Culligan-Sheppard, Ouellet-Fergus, and Slaney-Laberge. All have done a tremendous job, as have all six defencemen and goaltender Pavelec.

Cape Breton also leads the playoffs with six shorthanded goals.


- Cape Breton and Val d'or have never before met in a playoff series.

- The full circle that is the Luc Bourdon trade(s). Val d'or traded Bourdon to Moncton last season as part of their building for a run this year. They ended up getting superstars Marchand and Samson from the Wildcats in that deal. Now, Bourdon ends up on an Eagle team that they are facing in the league semifinal in their "go for it" year. Very ironic.

Who will win out? Bourdon, or the guys he was traded for?

What's also weird is:

Why do the Eagles have Bourdon? Because Val d'or let him go.

Why do the Eagles have to contend with Marchand/Samson in this round? Because Val d'or let Bourdon go.

I'm not quite sure I've seen a situation quite like this in the Q!

- Bourdon and Letang played together on two consecutive Canadian WJC gold medal winning teams, and actually paired up on defense at the latest championship. Marchand was also on this year's Canadian team.

- Sheppard and Marchand were linemates in midget for the Dartmouth Subways.

- Roy was a big part of the Bathurst Titan team that knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs last season.

- Justin Saulnier of the Foreurs was always a big rival of the Eagles when he played 3.5 seasons for the Halifax Mooseheads. He particularly seems to have a rivalry with Sheppard.

- Both coaches, Pascal Vincent of the Eagles and Eric Lavigne of the Foreurs, are looking for their first trip to the Q final.

- The two teams haven't met since October.

All in all, this one is about as closely matched up as they come, and could go either way depending on "the bounces". Unlike their first two series, where they were favoured against Bathurst and heavily favoured against St. John's, there is no real favourite going into this best-of-seven. Cape Breton goes into this series knowing that if they don't come up with one of their best stretches of hockey of the season, they will lose.

That said, this blogger is confident that the Eagles are a bit deeper offensively and especially defensively, and that they are on a mission and have what it takes to beat this extremely difficult opponent. Keys to success for Cape Breton will be to do whatever it can to shut down Marchand and slow down Letang, to receive the same excellent goaltending from Pavelec it has since Xmas, and for the powerplay to continue to play the excellent hockey it has thus far in the playoffs.

There's no looking back now.......... no overthinking anything............ no room for fear. It's full steam ahead from here on in; the easy part of this playoff journey is over. This whirlwind of a series starts tomorrow, may fans on both sides be treated to classic hockey, and may the best team win.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Great news; Games 1 and 2 in Val d'or to be televised on Eastlink TV

Fans eager to see their Cape Breton Screaming Eagles kick off Round Three of the playoffs for just the second time in team history got some great news Wednesday.

Instead of having to settle for audio only of the start of this highly-anticipated semifinal playoff series, diehard Eagle supporters will be able to see the action unfold for themselves from the comfort of their homes. Eastlink Television announced today that it will be picking up the video feed from a Quebec TV station (my apologies, I don't know its name yet!) and will air Games 1 and 2 LIVE from the Centre Air Creebec in Val d'or.

Game 1 is scheduled for an 8:30 PM AST start this coming Friday, while Saturday's rematch will get underway at 8:00 PM AST. Please note the different starting times between the two nights.

Get together with some friends, order up some food, crack open a few cold ones (if you're of legal age of course!), and watch Eagles playoff history happen live and in colour!!!!!


For those wondering about the extremely long distance between the two cities in this playoff round and what effect it may have on the Eagles, the team will not be bussing to Val d'or; they will be leaving the Sydney Airport at 3:00 PM Thursday on a charter flight, and will fly throughout the series. Obviously this eliminates a huge portion of the travel weariness that would have otherwise worn down our team in this playoff round between two of the most remote teams in the league.

Fans are invited and encouraged to drop by the airport and give the team a sendoff.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Round 3 opponent confirmed

Hey guys,

Just briefly logging in to confirm that our Eagles will indeed face the Val d'or Foreurs in the third round of this year's QMJHL playoffs.

Val d'or salted away their series with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar with a 4-3 victory tonight, taking the set in five games.

Game One will most likely be Friday, April 20, from the Centre-Air Creebec in Val d'or, PQ.

What a challenge this will be for our Screaming Eagles.

Pre-series breakdown to follow.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Five years later.......... we're all the way back

Five years ago, in April 2002, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan ended the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' hopes of a league title by taking them down in five games in the third round of the QMJHL playoffs. It was a heartbreaking end to a playoff run that the Eagles and their fans truly believed would end in championship glory.

Five years later, in April 2007, Cape Breton has knocked off those same Titan (in the same five games), to reach the league semifinal for the first time since, and only the second time ever in the team's ten-year existence on the island.

The series win was clinched last night at C200, with a wholly convincing 6-0 win. After a tentative first five minutes or so, the Eagles absolutely dominated the rest of the game in every way imaginable. The real key point to take away from last night's clincher was the absolutely blitzing Eagle powerplay. Cape Breton managed to score on each of its first four powerplay opportunities of the game, and on most of those chances with the man advantage, it didn't take them long to find the back of the net. Each of the team's two powerplay units contributed two goals, and both powerplay units were consistent factors all series. It's GREAT to see the team finally find two powerplay units that are almost equally strong and that can threaten pretty much equally to score, after spending much of the season honestly relying in large part on just one stacked powerplay unit.

The powerplay units that had so much success in this series were:


JC Sawyer-Oskars Bartulis on the points
Dean Ouellet, Jonathan Laberge, and Cam Fergus up front


Paul McIlveen and Luc Bourdon on the points
Chris Culligan, James Sheppard, and Scott Brannon or Nick MacNeil up front

I've said it countless times before and I'll continue to say it; for us to achieve our full playoff potential, our powerplay has GOT to be rocking. It was the team's Achilles Heel for so many years prior to this one, and it's really appreciated by the fans to finally see a team that can really threaten on every powerplay chance they get. The Eagles have scored at least one powerplay goal in each playoff game they've played thus far, and are far and away in the lead in PP % so far in these playoffs, at 38.2%. The next-closest team still in the postseason is Lewiston, at 27.6%.

Speaking of special teams, the Eagles' PK has also been huge thus far in the playoffs. The team also leads the league in this playoff category, at an 86.0% killing efficiency. To top it off, Cape Breton has scored six shorthanded goals in these playoffs, also a league-leading statistic. Five of those six "shorties" came in the series against the Titan.


A few keys to the five-game series win over le Titan d'Acadie-Bathurst were:

- An extremely strong forecheck. Our forwards were absolutely relentless in pressuring the young and mistake-prone Titan defence, and it resulted in many favourable turnovers. As well, it often prevented Bathurst from setting up out of their zone the way they would have liked to.

- Excellent team defense, forwards included. How else were we able to for the most part keep the #2 and #3 scorers in the league (Beauregard and Perreault) in check throughout the series?

- Our third and fourth lines stepped up and outplayed theirs. This was one concern that this blogger had entering the series, that maybe their "lower" lines were a bit more established than ours. But ours came together great, with guys like Jonathan Laberge and Brad Gallant (for example) stepping up and playing their best hockey to date this season. Laberge especially had his coming out party as an Eagle in the series against the Titan. After disappointing in the second half of the regular season after being acquired from the Saint John Sea Dogs, Laberge missed most of the first round against the St. John's Fog Devils with an injury. He returned against Bathurst with a vengeance, scoring four goals in the five-game series, including a couple of really big ones. He was also probably our best faceoff man in the series. If Jonathan can keep up this excellent play, we'll have finally found that bonafide third line center the team has been wanting all season.

- Our best players have continued to be our best players. It's a tired old cliche, I know, and some of you may want to throw rotten tomatoes at me for using it, but look at the scoring stats so far in the playoffs. Not a single guy on the team is lagging behind what he's capable of doing in terms of point production.


As for our round 3 opponent................

it's looking most likely that it will be the Val d'or Foreurs.

As many of you already know, the third round of the QMJHL playoffs features a crossover between the league's two divisions. Each division will have two teams remaining entering round three. The highest-remaining seed from the East Division will play the lowest-remaining seed from the West, and the highest-remaining seed from the West will play the lowest-remaining seed from the East.

Lewiston and Cape Breton are the two teams to have emerged from the East, while the two West Division playoff series are still taking place.

Cape Breton WILL be the #2 seed from the East, as they finished behind Lewiston in the regular season. Therefore, they will play whoever is the highest-remaining seed from the West once the rd 2 playoff matchups in that division are finished.

That looks like it's probably going to be the Foreurs. They currently sport a 3-1 lead in their series against Baie-Comeau. If they finish that series off (Game 5 goes tonight from Baie-Comeau), they WILL be our opponent in the semifinal round, as they finished first in the West and would be the highest-remaining seed.

If Val d'or somehow blows their 3-1 lead and loses to the Drakkar in 7, then our third round opponent would be the winner between Drummondville and Rouyn-Noranda. The Voltigeurs currently lead that series 3-2.

Anything can happen, but expect us to face Val d'or in round three, barring a near-miracle from the Drakkar. The Foreurs are a stacked hockey club who completely loaded up for this season, and would be an extremely difficult challenge for our Eagles; St. John's and Bathurst would not even come close to the challenge les Foreurs would be. However, I'll wait until they're actually our next opponent before getting into too much detail about Val d'or.

Unfortunately, the Eagles will NOT have home ice advantage in the upcoming third round. Even though Cape Breton finished with more points in the overall standings than did any West Division team, the league simply awards home ice to the "highest seed" in these third round playoff series. It doesn't make much sense at all, especially when you consider that in the league final, the league simply reverts to awarding home ice to the team that had more points in the overall standings. However, we have to play the cards we're dealt, and who knows, considering the 2-3-2 format our series will have no matter who we play (i.e. two games on the road, three games at C200, then two games on the road), perhaps not having home ice advantage could turn out to be an advantage of sorts for the Eagles.

Unless any scheduling snafus come up out of nowhere, expect the Screaming Eagles to kick off Round Three next Friday night (April 20), on the road.

Their first home game of the third round would be Game Three of the series, which would probably take place on Tuesday, April 24.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Eagles head to Bathurst up 2-0; a few notes heading into Game 3

Checking in after a busy Easter weekend prevented me from doing so earlier. This blogger/fan is heading to Northern New Brunswick to cheer on our Eagles tomorrow and Wednesday, so this may be the last time I check in for a little while. A few point form thoughts on Game 2, and heading into Game 3:

- With the exception of an early second period lapse in Game Two, the first two games at C200 couldn't honestly have gone much better for our Eagles. The 2-0 series lead against the Titan marks the first time Cape Breton has ever won two games in a playoff series against Bathurst, and is just the second 2-0 series lead in team history....... the other one obviously coming last round against the St. John's Fog Devils.

- The eight goals scored by the Eagles in Game Two are a team record for a playoff game, although it must be kept in mind that one of those was an empty netter, and the other was an extremely rare "automatic goal", awarded because James Sheppard was interfered with as he skated in alone on a vacant cage. It's the first time I can ever remember the Screaming Eagles being awarded a "gimme" goal like that.

- With a win in Game Three in Bathurst tomorrow night, the Eagles would have seven straight wins to open the playoffs. That would be longer than any win streak the team put together throughout the course of the entire 70-game regular season.

- With a win in either Game Three or Game Four in Bathurst this week, Cape Breton would exorcise one of the biggest demons haunting it over playoff seasons past. The Screaming Eagles are 0-10 all-time in the playoffs at the KC Irving Centre in Bathurst, NB. What a feeling it would be for long-time Eagle fans to finally break that goose egg, and to finally break away from the hold that that building has had on us come playoff time.

Back to the 8-3 win in Game 2 at C200................

- When you draft a player with the #1 overall draft pick, you expect an impact superstar that will wow fans for years and deliver in all clutch situations. You expect a guy who will be able to singlehandedly turn a hockey game around in his team's favour. You expect an ultimate difference-maker.

We've always known that James Sheppard, the Eagles' only first overall pick ever (2004), had most or all of these qualities one expects in a number one draft choice, but I'm not sure if he ever put it all on display like he did in Game Two on Saturday night. With two goals and three assists, including THE goal that turned the game around when the Eagles were losing 3-2 and reeling a little bit, James came up with one of the absolute biggest playoff performances in team history. His solo mission through virtually the entire Bathurst Titan roster to tie the game at 3-3 was something that few junior players in this country are capable of pulling off, and his shorthanded effort to set up Chris Culligan early in the third period for the 6-3 goal was almost equally amazing.

Many fans have said it; in these playoffs, we go as James Sheppard goes. If that's truly the case, I as a fan have all the confidence in the world as we head further down the playoff path.

- Also having a huge night was defenceman Oskars Bartulis. With two powerplay goals and two assists, Oskars really broke out with a huge game at a time when perhaps he needed one. He is most effective on the point when putting low slapshots on goal as opposed to wiring pucks up high, and that was proven when both of his goals were practically right along the ice. Here's hoping that performance goes a long way towards helping his confidence the rest of the way.

- Even though two of them were empty netters, three shorthanded goals in one period (third period, Game 2) has to be an Eagle team record......... regular season or playoffs. Anyone want to look that up for me? ;) As well, the powerplay came through yet again with three big goals........ it's been said for years; playoff success will be achieved when we finally get a powerplay that produces in the playoffs. It's been happening big time so far this year, and it's ever so much appreciated by the fans. Cape Breton has scored at least one powerplay goal in each of its six playoff games so far... let's hope that continues this week!

- A lot of people were disappointed with the play of "hired gun" Luc Bourdon down the regular season stretch, but most of you would have to agree that in these playoffs so far, he's really been showing us why we went out and acquired him. Luc was a gigantic physical and defensive force in those first two gams against the Titan. Kudos as well to JC Sawyer for his excellent work neutralizing the top Bathurst snipers, and to Beau Prokopetz for his top notch physical play and careful defensive awareness. Finally, Jason Swit and Spencer Corcoran have been rock solid as the unheralded third pairing; two of the team's most improved players over the second half of the season.

- How about that time out called by coach Pascal Vincent? Timeouts often evoke a positive change in the team that calls them, but that was one of the biggest improvements in a team from "before" to "after" that I've seen in a while after a coach called a timeout. Kudos to Vincent for recognizing the need and acting accordingly.

For Game 3, we really just need similar efforts to the two excellent ones put forth in the first two games. All four lines and all six defence truly contributed in big ways, and goaltender Ondrej Pavelec was there when needed. I honestly can't think of a single player that failed to pull his weight in the first two games of this series. If our boys can continue this strong and honest play, follow the game plan that's worked to date, and remain hungry despite the temptation to relax a bit due to being up 2-0, we should be fine and should continue to enjoy success. Discipline and powerplay production are also "musts".

There will be a decent number of Eagle fans cheering the team on in Bathurst, myself among them, all I have to say to end is GO EAGLES GO!!!!!

Friday, April 6, 2007

A virtually flawless performance; Eagles take Game One 3-0 before sold-out crowd

You couldn't really ask for a more successful playoff game.

The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles came out in front of a packed house that had high expectations of the team and was expecting results, and boy did they deliver in Game One of their second round series against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

Cape Breton dominated the game almost start-to-finish, holding the high-flying Titan to only a handful of decent scoring chances, and hemming them up in their zone for much of the final two periods. The Eagles also showed excellent discipline, taking just two penalties over the entire course of the hockey game.

The boys got on the scoreboard with a powerplay goal that featured some phenomenal passing, with the play finished off with one of Cam Fergus's patented lasers to the top shelf, glove side. That gave them a 1-0 lead after one. In the second, Chris Culligan was behind the Titan net and caught goaltender Antoine Tardif looking the wrong way. He then feathered a pass out front in the opposite direction to where Scott Brannon was waiting to tap it in for a 2-0 lead. The game's final goal came as a result of some great work by the third line. Brad Gallant did an excellent job forcing a turnover, and then he and Jo Laberge tic-tac-toed it to Brendon MacDonald for his first career QMJHL playoff goal. Brannon's goal was also his first in the Q playoffs.

But the biggest "first" achieved on the night was the shutout. Ondrej Pavelec, and the excellent overall team defense, combined for the first playoff shutout in team history. As well, this is the first time Cape Breton has ever won the first game of a series against Bathurst............. and the first time they have ever led a playoff series against Bathurst, period.

All four lines were excellent and did their jobs fully. The Fergus line provided flash and dash and created tons of scoring chances, including a powerplay goal. The Sheppard line was possibly the best of the night, shutting down the Beauregard/Perreault line and contributing a tally of their own. The Laberge/MacDonald/Gallant line outplayed Bathurst's young third line, and scored a goal. Finally, the JC Gauthier/Quesnel/MacNeil line kept the Titan pinned inside their blueline on many a shift.

All six defencemen were rocks, including lots of big hits from Beau Prokopetz and Luc Bourdon, and goaltender Pavelec made the saves when called upon.

Almost as close as you can get to a perfect performance, and it all came in front of a very enthusiastic and appreciative sold-out crowd.

That's what playoff hockey is all about, and the boys will try to do it all again tomorrow night!

How sweet it would be to head to Bathurst up two games to none; GO EAGLES GO!

GAME DAY! Eagles vs Titan, GAME ONE

After what seemed like an eternity of a wait, we are finally back to C200 tonight for playoff hockey! Game One of the second round of the playoffs against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan kicks off tonight and there should be a sellout or near-sellout crowd on hand to witness it. This is only the third time in team history that the Eagles have had home ice advantage in round 2 and hosted the first two games on their ice.

The key for tonight should be how the Eagles respond to having had nine days off since finishing the St. John's Fog Devils in Game Four last Wednesday in Newfoundland. Throughout this season, Cape Breton honestly didn't respond very well to extended periods without a game; some of the Screaming Eagles' worst performances of the season came on the heels of six or seven-day layoffs. It is CRUCIAL that the team not come out flat tonight despite having been idle for the past nine days. You know that le Titan will hit the ground running, as they're coming right off of the high of an overtime Game 7 win on Tuesday night against PEI.

One good thing about the long layoff was that it allowed Cape Breton to rest any nagging injuries players may have had. As a result, we should be entering tonight's game with pretty much a full lineup, with the exception of Etienne Breton, who is still a little ways away from coming back from that broken jaw. Here is a guess at line combinations and defence pairings for tonight:

Dean Ouellet-Cam Fergus-Paul McIlveen

Pure offensive line that delivered the goods big time against the Fog Devils, and will be asked to outproduce the Titan top line of Bartos-Perreault-Beauregard.

Chris Culligan-James Sheppard-Scott Brannon

The Eagles' superb two-way unit that can score goals, play physical, and most importantly, is extremely accountable defensively. These guys will be called upon to chip in offensively, to set the tone physically, and to play a big part in shutting down the Titan top scorers; especially Perreault and Beauregard.

Robert Slaney-Jonathan Laberge-Brendon MacDonald

A gritty checking line with decent offensive skills too, although it's a bit of an unproven entity as a unit. Laberge is just coming off of injury, but it's in this series where he's really going to have to start stepping up and showing us why we went out and traded for him. His performance is a big part of whether or not this line works. The challenge for this line will be to outplay the Titan third line of Joly-Faille-Grenache.......... and that's going to be a tough order.

Alex Quesnel or Nick MacNeil-JC Gauthier-Brad Gallant

A plucky energy line with very good offensive skills for a fourth line, and JC Gauthier is really counted on for his faceoff prowess. However, like line 3, this trio hasn't played much together as a unit, and will have to gel quickly to match the Titan fourth line of Jezegou-Morneau-Labelle.


JC Sawyer-Luc Bourdon

Two of the top defencemen in the league pair together as a fearsome duo. JC is the offensive defenceman, Luc the mean and physical shutdown guy. These two guys seem to have pretty good on-ice chemistry together, and I'm sure they'll be given the assignment of making life miserable for the flashier Titan forwards........ and I think they can't wait to take on this assignment. Bourdon's play in this series, like Laberge's, could go a long way in determining his true value to this team after being picked up in a trade.

Oskars Bartulis-Beau Prokopetz

A skilled but safe duo that will be playing a simple defensive game and chipping pucks in and out. Beau can also punish you physically. Oskars is one of the league's top defencemen, but has been hot and cold since about Xmas now......... he needs to be on top of his game night-in, night-out from here on in.

Jason Swit-Spencer Corcoran

No frills here, these guys will be asked to outplay the 4-5-6 Titan defencemen like Desnoyers, Pomerleau, Tesink. Both guys were pretty much near the top of their game against St. John's and need to keep bringing it if we're to have true defensive depth 1-thru-6.

And of course, in goal, the Czech Wall- Ondrej Pavelec.

This guy has been absolutely on top of his game since January, and all I can say is keep it up kid. If Ondrej is on top of his game in this series, the Titan tandem of Tardif and Miller will eventually wear out trying to match him save for save.

Good Friday has been good to the Eagles, and it's been very bad. In 2002, Pierre-Luc Laprise scored the OT winner to give Cape Breton a thrilling 5-4 win over Baie-Comeau to finish off the Drakkar in five games before a jubilant sold-out C200 crowd. But in 2004, Good Friday saw the Chicoutimi Sagueneens finish off the gigantic five-game upset of the Eagles that remains the team's darkest moment to date. Extreme joy in 2002 and crushing sorrow in 2004........ what will Good Friday bring in 2007?

It's playoff hockey, breathe it in, feel the electricity, and prepare to get wild as part of a potentially sold out C200 crowd tonight! A long-time foe comes for yet another challenge, and it may very well indeed finally be time to slay the demon that's haunted pretty much our entire playoff existence- the Bathurst Titan.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A pre-series look at our 2nd round opponent: the Acadie-Bathurst Titan

The Acadie-Bathurst Titan finished the regular season with a 35-28-2-5 record for 77 points and a .500 winning percentage. This record was good for a fifth place finish in the East Division standings. Of course, that is nothing more than background information. You know the cliche; once the playoffs start, regular season statistics go out the window. Bathurst faced the fourth place PEI Rocket in the first round of the playoffs, and snuck by them thanks to an overtime win in Game 7.

I'll now take a line-by-line, position-by-position look at our hated adversary, le Titan:



LW Martin Bartos C Mathieu Perreault RW Thomas Beauregard

This trio of players needs very little introduction. Perreault last night was named League MVP at the QMJHL's Golden Puck Awards, and finished third in league scoring with 41 goals and 119 points. Perreault was also named to the QMJHL's First All-Star Team. He is one of the most shifty, smart, creative, and dynamic players in the league. Add to all of that that he's also a proven clutch playoff performer. In my opinion he is THE most dangerous force the Titan have.

Then there is Thomas Beauregard, sniper extraordinaire, who led the league with 71 goals and finished second in the points scoring race with 124. He too was named to the first all-star team, and it can be argued that there is no player in the league as dangerous around the net.

The line is topped off by Martin Bartos, who while not quite the superstar Perreault or Beauregard is, is no slouch himself with 24 goals and 81 points, including a lot of success against the Screaming Eagles.

This is one of the premier offensive units in the entire QMJHL, and the Eagles will have to defend strongly against it.


LW Dany Masse C Charles Bergeron RW Jordan Clendenning

A very solid two-way line that offers decent scoring punch and a lot of other intangibles. Masse is probably the best pure offensive threat on the line, with 26 goals and 56 points on the season. Clendenning had a bit of a sub-par season offensively (16 G 51 PTS), but this guy is a warrior and is a clutch playoff performer, and he's showing it so far in this postseason, as he leads Bathurst in playoff points so far with eight. Jordan does a little bit of everything, and like I said, he's built for the playoffs and will be one for the Eagles to keep an eye on.

Finally, we have Charles Bergeron. If he has his way, he could really change the landscape of the series, and could be the most talked-about name in the C200 stands, even ahead of the superstars on line 1. Bergeron is a hulking and physical power forward who is a pure pest and agitator. He'll do whatever it takes to get under the skin of Eagles players, and to change the momentum of games in his Titans' favour. The big challenge for Cape Breton here is to not buy into this clown's antics, and to not let him get into their heads. Keep an eye on him folks; I guarantee he'll stir up trouble.


LW Tomy Joly C Eric Faille RW Samuel Grenache

On the surface, this looks like a fairly harmless trio, consisting of two rookies and a sophomore, none of whom had very big regular season stats.

Look beneath the surface, and this line could be as important as any for the Bathurst Titan, and could really change the direction of the series if it outplays Cape Breton's third and fourth lines.

This is a bunch of guys who maybe spent most of the season going through typical rookie ups and downs, but really started to come into their own near the end of the season, and have started the playoffs with a big bang. In the first round against PEI, Grenache had 3G 5 PTS, Faille 1 G 5 PTS, and Joly 1 G 4 PTS. DO NOT overlook these guys, they could be a key catalyst for le Titan! I truly believe a big factor in this series will be whether or not one or both of our third and fourth lines will be able to step up and outplay these guys. If they can't, give the edge on forward depth to the Titan.


LW Spencer Jezegou C Samuel Morneau RW Lucas Labelle/Jean-Simon Legros

Kind of a grab bag of players, but they've been an effective unit so far in the playoffs. Jezegou, for starters, is not just a fourth line player....... he's there only because they don't want to disrupt the other three well-established trios. Jezegou scored the series winner in OT of Game 7 against PEI, and believe it or not, also scored the OT winner in Game 2 of that series. This is a hidden threat living on the fourth line in Bathurst.

Morneau is a solid 16 year old player who fits the same mold as the three guys on line 3. You may remember Lucas Labelle from his brief stint with the Screaming Eagles in fall 2005, and if so, you'll recall that he's a scrappy agitator who I'm sure would love to prove to the Eagles that it was a mistake to let him go. Legros is honestly a one-dimensional fighter who may not play too much in the series.


The Titan have six regular defencemen that we'll see a ton of in this series. They are:

Mathieu Labrie
Zack Firlotte
Nicolas Sigouin
Marc-Antoine Desnoyers
Brad Tesink
Maxime Pomerleau

This is a pretty young overall defence crew, with Sigouin/Desnoyers/Tesink being just 17 years old. That said, all three were first round QMJHL Midget draft picks, so there is no doubt some talent there, it's just unrefined. However, all three stepped up into major roles in the PEI series, and if they can continue that strong play, Bathurst will bring a decently deep if unspectacular defence corps to Cape Breton.

There isn't really a JC Sawyer or Luc Bourdon calibre star defenceman on this roster. Their best overall D is probably Labrie, a 19-year-old veteran who's always been a bit of a thorn in the Eagles' side.

Defence could also honestly be a weakness for le Titan, if those young guys I mentioned become overwhelmed against a veteran offensive force like the Eagles. Labrie and Firlotte, you know what you're going to get, but it's those four other younger guys who will make or break this Bathurst D in this series.


All season, goaltending has been THE question mark for this otherwise pretty balanced hockey club. The Titan have been relying on a 19-year-old journeyman free agent named Brant Miller, and 16-year-old rookie Antoine Tardif, who while quite talented, is still pretty inexperienced and raw.

Miller played the first six games of the PEI series, before coach John Chabot rolled the dice and started Tardif in Game Seven. The young Tardif responded with a sparkling 45-save performance in a 4-3 OT win, and after that, you'd have to think he will get the start tomorrow in Game One against Cape Breton.

Goaltending may have been a weakness for Bathurst all season, but all they would need in this series would be for Tardif (or Miller, if he ends up playing) to have a few hot games. If the talented youngster can play like he did in Game 7 in PEI, an extremely high-pressure situation, Bathurst might not be in such bad shape in goal.

Coach John Chabot rolls all four lines and six defencemen. This enemy has four quality lines, including two of the top stars in the league, and a defence that can either be hit or miss. Their goaltending is a question mark, but Tardif wouldn't be the first goaltender to catch lightning in a bottle when unexpectedly thrust into the heat of playoff battle. Look no further than Cam Ward and what he did for the Carolina Hurricanes last year.

All in all, this is a solid opponent; much tougher than the St. John's Fog Devils. That said, Cape Breton could use a really good challenge. They will be sure to get it when Game One kicks off tomorrow in front of a potentially sold out crowd at C200.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Eagles to face long-time nemesis Bathurst Titan in second round

Thanks to some ridiculous Game 7 OT drama last night at both the Charlottetown Civic Centre and the Moncton Coliseum, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' second round adversary will be none other than the team that sent them packing last year; the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.

The Titan squeaked out a 4-3 OT win over the PEI Rocket in Game 7 of that series in Charlottetown, and then no doubt gathered around a TV to watch as Halifax defeated Moncton 3-2 in 2 OT in a thriller of a Game 7 from Moncton.

I just wanted to quickly sign in to establish for those who may not yet have read the paper that it will indeed be Bathurst in the second round. Stay tuned soon for a detailed pre-series rundown, as well as lots of information on the playoff history between these two teams........ as you will see, Cape Breton has a lot to draw from in terms of motivation to beat these guys.

Games 1 and 2 go Friday and Saturday, both 7:00 starts, from C200. This series could well be a barnburner.

Monday, April 2, 2007

My, how the plot has thickened - second round opponent to be determined in "Games 7" Tuesday night

In my previous blog, I noted that of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' three potential second round playoff opponents (Acadie-Bathurst Titan, Moncton Wildcats, and PEI Rocket), the Wildcats and Rocket were on the brink of elimination, and that therefore Cape Breton's most likely upcoming adversary would be the Bathurst Titan.

My how things have changed since then. This blogger will freely admit that he was maybe a little too quick to count out the Rocket and the Wildcats. At the time, PEI trailed Bathurst 3-1 in games, but they have since come back to tie the series at 3-3, forcing a Game 7 tomorrow (Tuesday) night at the Charlottetown Civic Centre. Moncton also looked like they were on their last legs. They trailed their series 3-2 against the Halifax Mooseheads, and had gotten crushed 5-0 at home in Game 5 of the series. However, Moncton has been surprising QMJHL fans all season, and proved that they had at least one more surprise left in their bag of tricks when they pulled out a 4-3 win at the Halifax Metro Centre in Game 6 to force a seventh game at the Moncton Coliseum tomorrow night.

What all of this means to the Screaming Eagles is that their second round playoff opponent is still very much yet to be determined, and that there is now pretty much an equal chance of it being any of those three possible opponents. Come Friday night, we could be facing Moncton, PEI, or Bathurst, and it will all be decided by the two Game 7's tomorrow night.

I'll try to put it as simply as possible:

- If Moncton defeats Halifax in the 7th game of that series, MONCTON WILL BE OUR OPPONENT. It will not matter what happens between Bathurst and PEI.

- If Halifax defeats Moncton in the 7th game of that series, then our opponent will be THE WINNER OF GAME 7 BETWEEN PEI AND BATHURST.

Fans may be interested to know that Game 7 between Moncton and Halifax is being carried LIVE on Eastlink Television tomorrow night at 7:30 PM from the Moncton Coliseum. Therefore, interested Eagle supporters can tune in and watch the team's second round fate become at least in part (if not fully) determined by the result of that game. The Eastlink broadcast will surely provide many updates on what's going on in Charlottetown, as well.

It's a tangled web we weave, but I for one wouldn't have it any other way. It's exciting when things go down to the wire like this, and furthermore, it's gotta be a good thing for our Eagles that whomever our second round challenger ends up being, they've already been through a gruelling seven-game series, and will hopefully have been worn down a bit.


Speaking of second round playoff matchups, those in the Telus Division are now finalized.

In Round One............

(1) Val d'or swept (8) Chicoutimi 4-0
(7) Baie-Comeau knocked off (2) Victoriaville 4-2
(6) Rouyn-Noranda shocked (3) Gatineau 4-1
(4) Drummondville dispatched (5) Quebec 4-1

That gives us second round pairings of...................

(1) Val d'or vs (7) Baie-Comeau
(4) Drummondville vs (6) Rouyn-Noranda

Look for Val d'or vs Baie-Comeau to be a potentially high-scoring dandy between two teams with absolutely potent offences.

Also note Gatineau's very surprising early exit. This is proof that playoff failure can happen to absolutely anyone, as nobody has a richer playoff history than the fabled Olympiques.

I'll check in after tomorrow night's Game 7s are played out, by which time we'll know our second round opponent and can all start dissecting how the series may go down!