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.


Anonymous said...

All I can say is GO EAGLES GO!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Huge dissappointment!!!Where was their top line at??I really think fergus must have been hurt.Mcilveen was transparent.That lackluster performance in game 5 really cost them!!!I really hope to see sheppard back here next year as a 19 year old,i think him and culligan will be incredible.Great run boys.Seeya next year!!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to the players and the coaching staff - sorry we didn't win -but, we enjoyed the run!! Sorry to not see the 20 year olds play again and we should all join together to wish them well - those returning and those not returning. We faithful are looking forward to another entertaining season. Good luck and thanks boys.

Anonymous said...

First off, I really want to say thank you, to the Eagles, the blogger, the coaching staff, and the fans. What a season! Congrats boys, making it so far is a huge accomplishment. I also agree with lou, I would hope to see James Sheppard back here again next year!
I really wanted to say a special thank you to Jean-Claude Sawyer, Paul McIlveen, and Cam Fergus, of course, our overagers. You guys will be greatly missed next year, and I personally wish the best of luck to each and every one of you. Thank you for an amazing season.
One more note, thank you to Inside The Nest, who gave each and every fan a great blog consistently after every game, and info on the games to come. We thank you! See you all at the rink next year!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Very disappointing!
If the series had gone back and forth the entire way, and the result was the same, and they ALL played hard in your face hockey, then I would be telling them to hold their heads high, and saying they had a great run.

But... to only have 1.5 lines playing outstanding, and the other players not 'bringing it', and still have a 3-1 lead in the series, and then lose 3 straight, i don't even know what to say other than "choke".

not taking anything from Val D'or, they brought it, they beat the Eagles at their own game. And their best players were their best players.

now we can only look back to this series and say, imagine what might have been if the team played as well in this series as they did in the previous 2.

I had posted a few times earlier in the 2nd half of the season commenting on the defensive issues that i saw with this team. i was asked how i could make a comment like that when the team had the best defensive record in the league. The Eagles lost because of poor defensive zone coverage, weak man coverage, and poor clearing attempts.

They blew leads in 3 or 4 of the games in this series in which offensively they outplayed Val D'or. But it the end it came down to a lack of team defence.

I was impressed with Pascal through much of the playoffs as well. I'm not a supporter of his style of coaching, but he deserved credit throughout. But I must say i was disappointed to see him fall back to the same old routine when it came to the PP. They went from being the #1 PP in the reg season and playoffs to a brutal non productive free fall in the last 3-4 games. yet... the same lines were sent out time and again. You need to shake things up when something is not working. hell, I would have benched Paul m or Fergus to at least set an example. great players get benched all the time and it usually wakes them up (ie. buf's Thomas Vanek).

None of this matters now, enough ranting, maybe next season. I still think some shake up needs to be done, maybe a new coach will bring some new life to the team. Keep Pascal as GM, he is outstanding in that role.


Anonymous said...

Well all well that ends well I guess stay I have to say I'm really disapointed in a way there's no way they should have let them back in the series but either way simply put 0-15 on pp +no help from top scroing line+ kinda falling apart by the seems= End of a gret playoff run o well thanks you Eagles for a great season and good luck to Sawyer,Paul and Cam you boys were great. As to the Rest of the Roster See ya Next Year at Training Camp And GO EAGLES GO!!!.

Anonymous said...

The boys choked last Friday as the team that came out after the first intermission was not the same one that went into the dressing room. All season long there were those of us who said that this team behaves unpredictably. When they should win, they would lose. They never got that monkey of their backs. The Sheppard, Culligan, Brennan/Slayney line never quite! Were the top dogs sulking because they were no longer in the lime light?
Whatever the case, this team will come to realize that they let a golden opportunity pass them by and they have no one to blame but themselves! What a shame that life long treasured memories that so easily could have been now will never be.
When a team says that it doesn’t pay attention to the fact that they can set a record for home consecutive wins, when a team says that they pay no attention to the fact that they could set a record for most wins on the road, when a team says that they are not concerned as to whether or not they finish with the best goals against or for or both, when a team says that they are not concerned as to whether or not they finish in first over-all, then I have to question their winning attitude!
I didn’t care for Letang or Marchant, but I can safely say that I didn’t see them quite! Speaking of those two, why were they not neutralized? We closed the door on the big line of Bathurst, so what happened here? What happened to the vaunted power play? In game five, you could almost sense that they didn’t care!
I also have to question the integrity of the QMJHL as the numerous missed calls left a distinct impression that Cape Breton was not to win. How could you have a Quebec final with two teams from the East? How can you justify determining play-off position by any other criteria that a team’s overall standing in points?
Can you imagine how much C200 would have been rocking had the Eagles succeeded? The interest from the Chad Denney perspective would have been amazing. It would have been a tremendous series! We, the fans have been robbed! As to the players, you have given yourselves a life long soul search!
I’m beginning to wonder if we are not related to the Boston Red Socks and that we may have to wait for almost forever to win the league title and then go on to compete for the treasured cup!
What a shame! I’m crushed!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like sour grapes, and I hate to say it...but what is the problem with the officiating in the Q. This series should be considered a complete embarrasement to the league. I know that the most often used phrase I heard in the intermissions was "can you beleive these referees" . The non calls left a sour taste in the mouths of ALL Eagle fans. The Q needs to look at this. PS ... Look out Lewiston, I fear you will receive the same treatment!!

Anonymous said...

I would like to respond to the last anonymous comment and Tommy's comment, but I won't. It isn't worth it!... and it probably wouldn't get printed anyway!

Anonymous said...

Well im very dissapointed at how all you fans are dissing the boys that helped us get this far...As for Cam he was sick lou ya cant expect much from someone whos under the weather and Paul played his heart out all season and playoffs hes gotta get tired somewhere so back off and give it a rest they tried and thats all we wanted from them and i should have taken CB Eagles fans remark and listened to it no of yas are worth any of these words if all yous are going to do is critizes the love to see you all go out and do better