The Moncton Wildcats need to play a near perfect game in order to beat the Halifax Mooseheads on Avenir Centre ice tonight. “They’ve done it once, so it can be done again,” is a great mantra to have, but let’s face it, to take a lead in this series will be a very tall task for the Wildcats, but stranger things have happened.
The Wildcats can play with the Mooseheads, but they will need execute their game for the entire 60 mins and beyond to compete with the Herd. Sylvain Favreau’s team are extremely difficult to beat, and you can bet your ass, they will take nothing for granted on the road for Game 3 and 4.
The Mooseheads are a championship caliber team and when they execute their game plan and are running on all cylinders are arguably one of the best in the country. Losing Game 1 to the Cats might be the best thing that ever happened to the Moose. Every ultra talented team need a wake up call every now and again, for the Mooseheads that was Game 1. Favreau definitely has the attention of his group. As for Lacroix, it’s back to the drawing board after Game 2. Lacroix is no stranger to changing up his lines in effort to get the best out of players, or the players that he thinks might be going on any given night. Look for that trend to continue, but in many ways it might be wise for Cats to try to match Trenholm’s line up against Lawrence’s line to see if that might work.
Photo Credit by Riley Scott
Time and Space
Skilled teams hate and I mean absolutely hate having their time and space taken away. If the Wildcats hope to win tonight, they will have to execute their smartest forechecking game to date and even then they will still have breakdowns in their coverage because that’s how skilled, smart and mobile the Moosheads 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 Mooseheads are definitely a rush team. They want to get out on the rush and attack as fast as they can which is one of their best strengths, but also one of their biggest weaknesses.
You see what makes you strong, can also make you weak.
Halifax get in trouble when they don’t support the breakout and when they fly the zone. Their D corps are very mobile, but they tend to turn pucks over when pressured and their 1st and 2nd options get taken away. The Cats will have to take an extremely layered and calculated approach on the forecheck to create those turnovers. Obviously, the Wildcats will have to pounce and capitalize on those opportunities to generate offensive chances especially if pucks get turned over in the neutral zone. The Cats will have to make sure they generate offence of any odd man rushes they have in order to hang with the Herd. When the Wildcats play to their systems and stay discipline(in every sense of the word) they are at their best.
There’s no question the Moosheads 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 Mooseheads will need to come out right away and impose their will on the Cats. If they support the puck in all three zones, Moncton will be in for a very very long night, because that’s when the Herd is at their best. Favreau’s club love to attack, love puck possession and create havoc in the offensive zone. They love going low to high, when given time and space. Moncton will have to do a good job getting into shooting and passing lanes in order to limit shot opportunities from the point position. The Wildcats are decent in that area, and block a lot of shots, but they can’t be late to coverage in their own zone. The Mooseheads make teams miss with their puck movement and poise especially when it comes to their top two lines.
The Little Things
The Moncton Wildcats will have to do all the little things right in Game 3 for any hope of beating the Mooseheads. 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 Mooseheads 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 have to be physical, but they can’t take themselves out of the play or position in order to throw the “big hit,” because Halifax will make them pay. The Cats coverage on face offs and overall coverage through the neutral zone and D zone, wasn’t the greatest in Round 1 vs Baie-Comeau.
Don’t get me wrong there’s a lot of Wildcats that sell out, that 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 be successful vs Halifax. 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. There’s no question Halifax will be ready for anything and will try to match and surpass the Wildcats intensity from the drop of the puck.
The Trust Factor
Trusting and playing for the guy beside you takes on a whole new meaning in the playoffs. Both teams have tendencies to become too individualistic at times or go out on their own. Halifax have the overall individual skill and depth to do that, Moncton not so much. That’s why the Wildcats have to play their best “team” game of the year tonight and tomorrow night to stand any chance of being successful in the series. They can’t back down, everyone needs to be physical and stay discipline. They need a total team effort tonight. They can’t have any passengers when it comes to defensive accountability. Obviously, everyone knows their outmatched, they just have to make sure they hang in there with the Mooseheads as long as they can to make a game and series out of it. No easy exits, no “stupid ass” penalties or missed assignments, if you’re the Wildcats. As for the Mooseheads, it’s all about puck support, moving the puck at the right times and of course bringing their intensity. The Mooseheads can’t sit back and believe their talent is enough, they have to take pride in outworking the Cats for the next two games to have a chance to close out the series on home ice.
Most of all the pundits had this series being a sweep, that didn’t happen.
The Cats may have surprised the Moose in Game 1, but they came crashing back to reality in Game 2.
Playing a perfect game come playoff time 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.
It’s playoff time in the QMJHL, anything can happen.