Which Canadian teams will make it to Stanley Cup playoffs?
Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens makes the first period save on Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 21, 2017 in New York City. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
What a difference a year makes.
Just eleven months after no Canadian teams, infamously, made the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs, it looks good for three or four to get in this year as we enter the stretch run.
The lack of teams from the Great White North made for a strange vibe across the country last spring.
While hardcore fans – the type who PVR Spengler Cup games – will, of course, watch any televised hockey, the lack of regional teams had a palpable effect on the casual viewer.
Ratings were down across the land, and there was a noticeable decline in the quantity, and attendance at, watch parties and barbecues.
That’s about to change, thanks to a combination of bounceback seasons and an influx of maturing young talent from the last few drafts.
Here’s how the teams chances are looking as we head into the last several weeks of the schedule:
The Canadiens have been stumbling lately, but they are still in first place in the Atlantic, with only a moderately difficult remaining slate.
The big question here is: which Carey Price is going to show up for the playoffs?
Chance to get in: 75%
The Senators are right at the Habs’ heels with a couple games in hand, but have the toughest remaining schedule, with the biggest imbalance (13-to-9) in road-to-home games.
They also just lost backup goalie Andrew Hammond for the remainder.
The Oilers are third in the Pacific, and have the easiest schedule left, with 13 of 19 at home.
The Flames are fourth in the Pacific, currently sitting in the first wild card spot. They have a favourable home/road split (12-to-7) and a relatively easy schedule.
The Maple Leafs are fourth in the Atlantic, with a tenuous hold on the second and last Eastern wild card slot. The schedule is not easy – it feels like this one will go down to the wire.
The Jets are in a touch spot. They have a favourable sked, but are stuck behind a couple of teams.
Um. Currently living in an Outbreak sequel and, let’s face it, focusing on the draft lottery at this point.
The last Canadian team to win the Cup was 24 years ago; Montreal in 1993. (A year later Vancouver and Trevor Linden took the Rangers to a seventh game in New York in the final.)
Could one of them make a serious run this year?
That will probably come down to how hot Carey Price can get in net.