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All 6 Maritime teams eyeing clean sweeps in QMJHL playoff opening round

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Sports have a way of creating some unexpected storylines and nobody could have predicted that four Maritime teams would all be down 3-0 in the opening round of their QMJHL playoff series.

"The fact that all the Maritime series are at 3-0, that's probably the biggest surprise of all, and these could all be over tonight, and I don't think anybody would have guessed that," said QMJHL and The Hockey News contributing writer, Will MacLaren.

That's the case for Charlottetown, Moncton, Saint John and Halifax, all four teams face elimination Wednesday, trailing 3-0 in their respective series.

The biggest surprise might be in Halifax, where the Mooseheads, who finished in second place in the Eastern Conference and 25 points ahead of the seventh-placed Acadie-Bathurst Titan, were knocked out of the playoffs due to a loss to the Titan on Wednesday in Acadie-Bathurst.

MacLaren points to the Moooseheads' injury problems and off-ice issues that are likely playing a factor in their playoff slump.

Mooseheads captain Jake Furlong is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery, and leading scorer Jordan Dumais, who was suspended before the playoffs for an impaired driving charge, has since been put back on the injured list and unable to play.

"There's no way that can't impact a dressing room," said MacLaren. "But you have to give credit to Acadie-Bathurst, they have played the Mooseheads strong all year and this is just a carryover of that."

The biggest surprise that nobody might have predicted is the recent success of the Cape Breton Eagles, who could sweep their way through the first round in their series with Rimousk if they win tonight.

The story for Cape Breton at the start of the season was their dwindling attendance record, but now they are one of the hottest teams in the country, and the crowds are topping 4,000 for their two playoff games at home.

"Something kind of switched halfway through the year in Cape Breton," said Jamie Tozer, a QMJHL contributing writer and editor of the hockey blog Station Nation.

"There's a lot of effort to improve the off-ice efforts and it seems to have worked, certainly the attendance has gone up over the past few months, and it seems just like the perfect storm for the eagles," said Tozer.

MacLaren says the Eagle's success is probably the biggest story in junior hockey right now, but part of that success on the ice is due to the excitement in the arena and the jump in attendance.

"For me, that's the story within the story," said MacLaren. "Nothing beats a playoff game in Cape Breton with a packed house. We've seen it historically but it's been a long time."

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