At the conclusion of this year's Stanley Cup final, it will be 17 years since the Montreal Canadiens hoisted the Cup—or will it? There are two Canadian teams locked into the playoffs, Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks, with the Montreal Canadiens waiting to clinch a possible sixth seed and Calgary on the outside, looking in.
The Senators last caught sight of the Stanley Cup in 2007, when they met the Western Conference Champion Anaheim Ducks. The final was over in five games and the victor was the Ducks. Ottawa's first Stanley Cup final appearance since 1927 ended with nothing to show for it.
Now it's 2010. Instead of Ray Emery, the team is led by goaltender Brian Elliot (29-18-3) and still captain Daniel Alfredsson. As of season's end, the Sens will either play the New Jersey Devils or the Pittsburgh Penguins. Either poison will prove to be a challenge. Is this the year of a Stanley Cup or an utter disappointment?
Last year the Canadiens were shockingly swept by the Boston Bruins in four games. As mentioned, Montreal was last to bring a Cup home. With the most Stanley Cups in the entire National Hockey League (24), you have to think the fans and the organization are itching for one in the twenty-first century.
Now it's 2010. The Canadiens aren't quite comfortable with their position, barely clinging on to sixth position with the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers running from the New York Rangers and Atlanta Thrashers. Much like the Senators, Montreal will be in a bad spot upon qualifying for the playoffs. The worst possible scenario is making it as eighth seed and taking on the Eastern Conference heavyweight and league-best Washington Capitals.
The Vancouver Canucks first came to the NHL in 1970 along with the Buffalo Sabres. In 40 years they have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals twice (1982,1994), both times without a Cup.
Plainly, if you have to choose a Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup this year, it would have to be the Vancouver Canucks. They will soon clinch their division and are firmly holding on to the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference. It's unclear whom they will be playing. Whoever they play in the first round should go down cleanly.
There are currently 13 teams in the Western Conference that have a considerable winning record. Calgary is one of those teams. With a record of 40-30-9, Calgary should have a low spot into the playoffs, but due to the extraordinary talent this year, the Western Conference has been smoothed down. The Colorado Avalanche currently hang on to the eighth seed, leading Calgary 91 to 89.
In order to win, Calgary must win all three remaining games and have the Avs lose all remaining games in regulation. It's slim, but possible for the Flames to make the playoffs.