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.
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.
SEE YOU AT THE RINK.