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:
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.