Sports Hockey

NHL playoffs down to two Canadian teams to end Stanley Cup drought

By Torben Rolfsen

Oilers forward Patrick Maroon (19) celebrates his goal with Connor McDavid (97) as Matt Benning (83) skates in during NHL playoff action against the Sharks in Edmonton on April 20, 2017. (Ed Kaiser/Postmedia Network)

Oilers forward Patrick Maroon (19) celebrates his goal with Connor McDavid (97) as Matt Benning (83) skates in during NHL playoff action against the Sharks in Edmonton on April 20, 2017. (Ed Kaiser/Postmedia Network)

And then there were two.

A rollicking first round of the NHL playoffs ended with Edmonton and Ottawa carrying the flag forward for Canada, disappointment in Montreal and Calgary, and soaring hopes for a bright future in Toronto.

While neither are favourites from here on in, the Oilers and Senators will both be formidable second-round opponents (for the Ducks and Rangers, respectively) as they attempt to end the country’s interminable Stanley Cup drought.

The last time a Canadian-based team – Montreal in 1993 – hoisted Lord Stanley’s mug, Kurt Cobain was still around.

What has happened since then?

Its been a varied history of near-misses and early exits.

Here are the last Canadian teams out in every year since the Habs won it all 24 years ago:

1994

Trevor Linden and the Vancouver Canucks took it to Game 7 at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers and Conn Smythe winner Brian Leetch.

1995

The Canucks were swept out of the conference semifinals (ie. second round) by the Blackhawks.

1996

The Maple Leafs, Flames, Canucks, Jets and Canadiens all went out in the first round.

1997

The Oilers lost a conference semifinal in five games to a Joe Sakic-led Colorado Avalanche team.

1998

Oilers, Canadiens, Senators lost conference semifinals.

1999

The Maple Leafs exited after a conference final loss to Buffalo. Jack Eichel had no comment. He was 2.

2000

Toronto lost a conference semifinal to New Jersey.

2001

The Maple Leafs (again – who knew?) lost another conference semifinal to the Devils and their super-nerd fan, Kevin Smith, 4-3.

2002

For a fourth straight year, the Leafs were the last Canadian team skating, losing a conference final to Carolina.

2003

The Senators lost a conference final 4-3 to New Jersey.

2004

The Flames lost in the Stanley Cup final 4-3 to the John Tortorella-led Tampa Bay Lightning and Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards.

2005

Not applicable due to lockout. Thanks, Gary.

2006

The Oilers lost in the final to the Carolina Hurricanes and their Conn Smythe-winning goalie, Cam Ward, 4 games to 3.

2007

The Senators lost 4-1 in the final to the Ducks of Anaheim, who suddenly got mightier right after they dropped Mighty from their official name. Scott Niedermayer took home the Conn Smythe.

2008

Les Habitants lost in the conference semifinals to Philadelphia, 4-1.

2009

The Canucks lost a conference semifinal to Chicago, 4-2.

2010

The Canadiens dropped a conference final to the Flyers, 4-1.

2011

The Canucks lost a heartbreaker final 4-3 to the Bruins and playoff MVP Tim Thomas.

2012

Canucks and Senators: both first-round exits.

2013

The Senators lost a conference semifinal to Pittsburgh, 4-1.

2014

The Canadiens lost in the conference finals to the Rangers, 4-2.

2015

Canadiens and Flames were knocked out in the second round.

2016

You remember. No Canadian teams at all.

This year’s second round – starting this week – should be fun.

The free-wheeling young Oilers should be an interesting contrast to the abrasive, veteran Ducks.

As for the Senators-Rangers: finally, something out of Ottawa we can all get behind.

Here we are now, entertain us.