The Moncton Wildcats need to play a perfect game in order to beat the Charlottetown Islanders on Avenir Centre ice tonight.
It’s a tall task, but there’s been signs of hope for the Cats in the first two games of the series. The Wildcats can play with the Isles, but they will need execute their game for the entire 60 mins and beyond to compete with Jim Hulton’s team.
Hulton’s Islanders are extremely difficult to beat, and you can bet your ass, they will take nothing for granted on the road in Game 3.
The Islanders are a championship caliber team that when they execute their game plan and are running on all cylinders are arguably the best in the country.
How can the rebuilding Wildcats stand a chance in Game 3?
Well other than playing an absolutely perfect game, the Wildcats will need to key in on the following three aspects to stand a slight chance to win and force a Game 4.
Time and Space
Skilled teams hate and I mean absolutely hate having their time and space taken away. If the Wildcats hope to extend the series and force Game 4 on Tuesday night they will have to have their best and smartest forechecking game of the season and even then they will still have breakdowns in their coverage because that’s how skilled, smart and mobile the Isles defensive corps actually are.
You see it’s one thing to think about applying pressure, it’s another to try to make sure you have proper coverage in all three zones.
The Islanders are a perfect hybrid of a rush and a grinding team. That’s exactly how they are built. The Islanders can play any style you want and still come out on top.
One of their only weaknesses lies within. You see what makes you strong, can also make you weak.
If the Wildcats pressure in every situation the Isles have a small tendency to start to force the issue and will turn pucks over.
The Wildcats will have to take advantage of every turnover and capitalize on any odd man rushes they have in order to hang with the Islanders. When the Wildcats play to their systems and stay discipline(in every sense of the word) they are at their best. The Islanders will be ready for anything and will be prepared for the onslaught of pressure, it’s how they will handle that pressure that will ultimately determine their success in Game 3.
The Little Things
The Moncton Wildcats will have to do all the little things right in Game 3 for any hope of beating the Islanders. Elite level teams have a tendency to wear their opponents down. The Cats will have to focus on every aspect of the game especially in the face off dot. The Islanders, like any other great CHL team are dominant in the face off circle and love to control the puck. Puck possession and puck management will be key for both clubs. 1 on 1 battles really matter all over the ice, the Wildcats will have to win the vast majority of those if they want to compete. The Cats coverage on face offs and overall coverage through the neutral zone hasn’t been the greatest. It’s definitely one area that they can tidy up. Don’t get me wrong there’s a lot of Wildcats that sell out, back check like hell, block shots, and try to shut down their opponents with stifling defensive pressure, but their stick positioning in the own zone and overall defensive zone coverage will have to improve if they want to win. You don’t need a lot of skill to do those little things and to be honest those are the little things that championship caliber teams take so much pride in.
Everyone in the hockey world understands that you can do all the little things right and still lose hockey games. That’s why everything has to be almost perfect for the Wildcats to win Game 3.
The Islanders Kryptonite?
The Charlottetown Islanders don’t need stellar goaltending to go where they want to go, they just need both their netminders to be solid.
Francesco Lappena has been a great addition to the Isles, but if the Wildcats put pucks on net in the right locations they could generate a lot of rebounds and scoring chances. The Islanders don’t have a ton of weakness, but Lappena’s lack of playoff experience could play a role. Don’t get me wrong Francesco Lappena is a great goaltender, but he does struggle from time to time when moving laterally and when facing shots in his feet. Look for the Wildcats to fire more pucks at his feet, and generate more traffic in front of him. If they can do that they will have a fighting chance to score more goals. Lappena is also vulnerable at times on the glove side and plays a little deep. On the other side of the ice Jonathan Lemieux will have to stand on his head in order for the Wildcats to win. The Isles have been keying in on firing pucks high to the glove side on Lemieux. The veteran Isles team are relentless and always get to the net. If the Wildcats lock things down structurally, and try to keep the Isles more on the perimeter or outside then that will bode well for Lemieux to stop more pucks. The Islanders have tons of grit and will always drive the pace of the game. The Cats need layers to their defensive game and keeping the Islanders to the outside is a daunting task, but when they have done that in spurts this season they have been successful.
Playing a perfect game to stave off elimination is almost impossible, but it can be done. The Wildcats will need their best effort of the year to do that tonight on Avenir Centre ice.
You can catch all the action on Eastlink TV at 7pm.