It’s been 22 years since Lord Stanley’s Cup was presented to a team in the most hockey-crazed country in the world. It was 1993 when the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 5 games over Barry Melrose’s LA Kings. It was time where the cup practically lived in Canada, the Oilers, Flames, and Canadiens won 7 Cups in a row from 1984-1990. And 8 out of 10 from 1984-1993.
Since then, the Cup has stayed with teams down south. There is nothing really to explain the fact that a Canadian team has not won the Stanley Cup in so long. Perhaps the odds are just too bad. Only 7 out of 30 teams play in Canada, less than one third, and therefore it is way more likely that the Cup ends in the hands of an American team. Not that that is a bad thing.
The success of American teams has undoubtedly helped the games popularity in the USA. Teams like Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Chicago and Boston have been dominate in the past decade or so and that has obviously given their respective fan bases something to cheer for and support. The game is popular, wildly, in Canada. Fans are rabid, they crave hockey, and while they will still tune in to watch the Stanley Cup be hoisted, there would be something so special about watching a Canadian team win. While the drought has dragged on over two decades, that is not to say that Canadian teams haven’t come close.
The Flames took the Lightning through 7 gruelling games in 2004. And the Oilers came oh-so-heartbreakingly close against Carolina in 2006, and they probably would have won had Dwayne Roloson not gone down injured on a freak play that continues to haunt Oiler fans. Ottawa made the finals the next year, but lost in 5 games to the Ducks. And in 2011, the Canucks can riotously, literally, close to winning the Cup against the Bruins.
Canadian teams have come close many times in the past decade, which is quite good considering the odds. But this year, the odds have never looked better.
Five of seven Canadian teams have qualified for the playoffs this season and each team has, while some are long shots, a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
Here’s a look at each Canadian team in the playoffs and why they have a chance to bring the Cup to Canada, in order of best to worst chances.
The Winnipeg Jets are scary. Terrifyingly brutal, big, fast, and strong. The Jets are very similar to the Los Angeles Kings; they are a big, physical team that, when they want, can dominate the game. They are getting very good goaltending of late, Ondrej Pavelec posted a 0.920 SV% and has three consecutive shutouts. Talk about going into the playoffs strong. Dustin Byfuglien has returned from a 4 game suspension for a violent crosscheck to the neck of the Rangers J.T. Miller. They draw a lot of penalties and had 269 powerplay chances this season, but finished below the league average converting on only 17.84%. The Jets did not have any big goal scorers, number wise. Wheeler had 26, Little and Ladd had 24 a piece, and the team finished with 230 goals for, good enough for 15th in the league.
They will win if…
Ondrej Pavelec stays hot and someone steps up offensively.
Carey Price will likely win the Vezina trophy and perhaps the Hart trophy as well and, if his team succeeds, it will likely be 100% on his back. This season Price lead the league in wins (44 and a Canadiens record), save percentage (.933), and goals against average (1.96). He also finished tied for second in shutouts (9). Price has had the 5th best season for a goalie of all-time, save percentage wise, and he played more games than all the goalies ahead of him on that list. Again, if the Canadiens want to win it depends on Carey Price. Other than Price, the Canadiens will rely on Max Pacioretty, who is currently out with a head injury suffered two weeks ago. Pacioretty scored 37 goals this year and was solid defensively finishing tied first in the league in plus/minus at +38. If he is on his game, the Canadiens will have a good chance to succeed. P.K. Subban will be another factor. He scored 60 points and led the team in powerplay goals with 9.
They will win if…
Price, Pacioretty, and Subban play well. They Canadiens don’t have a lot outside of these three guys, and all three will need to play outstanding for this team to succeed.
The comeback kids. In a year that was supposed to be a rebuild, the Flames have defied all logic and somehow made it into the playoffs – and they have a chance to do very well. They have had so many improbable comebacks this year, it seems impossible to think of how a team will be able to beat them 4 times in 7 games. Sean Monahan is becoming a superstar. He scored 31 goals in his second NHL season, tied with Jiri Hudler, who had an incredible season as well. Hudler had 31 goals, 45 assists and finished 8th in the league with 76 points behind names like Benn, Seguin, Crosby, Ovechkin, and Tavares. Jonny Gaudreau had a breakout season with 24 goals and 64 points. Dennis Wideman showed the hockey world he still had it in him by scoring 56 points, a career high, finishing fourth on the team in scoring. T.J. Brodie and Kris Russell have shown the ability to play strong defensive hockey finishing +15 and +18, respectively. These two, along with Wideman, stepped up in the absence of their captain and best defenseman Mark Giordano. Jonas Hiller has been average, but good enough to keep his team in games, finishing with a .918 SV% and 2.36 GAA.
They will win if…
Their weird luck and offensive prowess continue.
Forgotten in the cloud of the Flames miracle wins, the Jets first playoff trip, Carey Prices legendary season, and the antics of the Hamburglar in Ottawa, are the usually-successful Cancucks. The Canucks have what the Flames, Jets, and Senators lack: experience. Tonight will be Henrik Sedins 100th NHL Playoff game as he faces off against Monahan and Gaudreau playing their first. The Sedins and Radim Vrabata have led this team all year and their success has opened things up for their secondary scorers like Higgins, Burrows, Bonino, Hansen, and Matthais. The twins both surpassed 70 points and Vrabat lead the team with 31 goals. The Canucks have some serious secondary scoring. Each line has a 15-goal scorer and having a four-line attack will be an advantage over the Flames shortened back-end with Giordano and Bouma likely our for the series or at least a few games, in the case of Bouma. The Canucks short-fall is their goaltending. Eddie Lack has been good, but does not have NHL playoff experience, and Ryan Miller, the more experienced of the two, has been hurt for the last few months and will likely have some serious rust should be get a start or have to relieve Lack.
They will win if…
Vrabata and the Sedins get and stay hot and the goaltending is solid.
The Senators had their season saved by perhaps the most unexpected player in their organization: Andrew Hammond. The once struggling AHL goalie has been phenomenal for the Senators. In 24 games he has 21 wins, 1 loss, and 2 overtime losses. He has posted a 1.73 GAA and a .943 SV%. His record and stats are better than Carey Prices from Feb. 18th, when Hammond made his first start, until now. The Senators are getting a lot of offense from a lot of different places. Erik Karlsson leads the team with 66 points, and Kyle Turris and rookie standout Mark Stone fall into second with 64 points each. Mike Hoffman has had a standout season leading the team in goals with 27 and finishing 5th in points with 48. The Senators made the playoffs thanks to an unlikely run from an unlikely goalie and some serious scoring from unlikely sources Hoffman and Stone.
They will win if…
Hammond can continue to surprise the hockey world. He has played extremely well and if he can continue to do so, the Senators will succeed. Also, Stone, Ryan, Hoffman, and Turris need to keep scoring and help their goalie out.
So there you go. The Cup has a few Canadian contenders each with a really good chance to bring the Cup back to Canada .
No matter what though, the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be an exciting and thrilling ride!