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NHL Playoffs: Where Are All the Canadian Teams in This Years Stanley Cup Drive?

VANCOUVER, CANADA - MARCH 8: Samuel Pahlsson #26 of the Vancouver Canucks is congratulated by Kevin Bieksa #3, Jannik Hansen #36 and Marc-Andre Gragnani #5 after scoring what proved to be the game winning goal against the Winnipeg Jets during the third period in NHL action on March 08, 2012 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Canucks defeated the Jets 3-2.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Rich Lam/Getty Images
John B MathesonCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2012

This year marks the return of seven Canadian teams to the NHL, and of those seven only one is a definite for the postseason this year, making this potentially the smallest Canadian turnout in the playoffs since 1973, when the Montreal Canadiens were the only Canadian team.

There are a few teams on the cusp, with one other team above the eighth and final seed. Two sit within reach of the postseason; for one it may be a longer shot than the other.

In the Western Conference sits the only Canadian team to have secured a playoff spot. The Vancouver Canucks sit at the top of their division with 101 points, tied with the New York Rangers and two points back from St. Louis in the race for the Presidents' Trophy.

Should they manage to secure the top spot in the league, it will be the second year in a row for the Canucks. As potentially the only Canadian team to be in the race for the Stanley Cup, they are in a position to once again get to the finals.

Calgary is sitting on the cusp, only two points behind the Phoenix Coyotes for the eighth and final spot. There are two teams tied with 86 points sitting just above the Flames, meaning not only do the Flames need to play well, but they also need to hope that the three teams above them perform poorly.

With five games remaining, it is not out of reach for the Flames to add themselves as another Canadian team in the playoffs. In their last five games, Calgary will play two of the teams currently sitting above them, the Kings and Avalanche. These two games are must-wins for them in order to close in on Phoenix, who have to face two teams in the upper end of the conference.

WINNIPEG, CANADA - MARCH 26: Ottawa Senators' head coach Paul MacLean watches action from the jumbotron as Winnipeg fans show a sign for him in NHL action at the MTS Centre on March 26, 2012 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Ima
Marianne Helm/Getty Images

The Eastern Conference is a slightly different story, Ottawa is the only Canadian team seeded for the playoffs. Their lead is a paltry one, however, with only four points separating them and ninth-place Washington. Should Ottawa face a complete collapse they will lose their playoff spot to either Washington or Buffalo.

The big game for Ottawa will take place on April 5th, when they play the division rival and leader Boston Bruins, who only hold a three game lead over Ottawa. Of the remaining five games, three will be against other playoff contenders: Philadelphia, who has secured their playoff berth, and New Jersey, who have gone 5-4-1 in their last 10 and sit two points ahead of the Senators.

The newly relocated Jets sit in tenth place in the East, and much like Calgary they still have a chance to make the playoffs in their six remaining games. The reality is, unlike the Flames, they are eight points behind Buffalo and would have to win every game remaining.

Two of their final games are against top teams, the Rangers and the Panthers. It can be argued that the Panthers are not a top team and are only in third because of the weak division they are in, but Winnipeg is one of those teams in their division.

Florida's main opponent for the postseason spot really comes down to Washington, who is only three points behind them, while the Jets are an insurmountable nine points back. The crushing blow to the Jets season that almost saw a great turnaround came at the hands of a fellow Canadian team, the Ottawa Senators, who soundly beat the Jets 6-4.

As for the remaining three Canadian teams, they all seem to be battling it out for the second-worst team in the league.

There is one in the West that has been out of playoff contention for some time in the Edmonton Oilers. Seeing as Edmonton finished dead last in the league for two years in a row, a place currently held by Columbus, this is a step up.

With six games remaining, Edmonton's only real hope is to try and outdo the Montreal Canadiens for second-worst in the league.

As of March 27th, the Toronto Maple Leafs are now also out of the playoffs. This makes them the only team to not make the postseason since the lockout, barring Washington knocking out Florida in the final few games remaining, and a dismal seventh year in a row missing the playoffs.

Not even the late-season coaching change could save the Leafs after they plummeted through February and March. The only thing they have left to play for is to not being the worst team in the East, the title currently held by Montreal.

Speaking of Montreal, their dynastic club has truly fallen to shambles this season. They have struggled over the last few years to regain the pride and glory of the club they had once been. With 24 Stanley Cup victories, the most for one club in the NHL, Montreal fans have been calling for numerous heads to roll.

Injuries and poor management have been major factors in their dismal season this year, and Canadiens fans have been desperately waiting for the end of their most painful season in years.

So while Vancouver sits atop the league this season, the remaining Canadian teams have been struggling to find the postseason. With luck and some good play, Calgary and Ottawa can push forward and finish the season on a high note by extending their season even just a little bit before most likely being knocked out of the playoffs.

If, however, this does not happen, Vancouver will be the only team representing Canada in the 2012 race for the Stanley Cup. Which begs the question, should we all now start calling Vancouver Canada's Team?

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