Maple Leafs, Senators and Oilers all have a real shot at the Stanley Cup
The Santa Clara
April 19, 2017
Canada is dominating the NHL playoffs. After sending zero teams to the postseason the year before, five Canadian teams qualified for the playoffs and four are either tied or lead their first round series. Canadian hockey will continue to define this postseason.
The most clear example of Canada’s resurgence is the wild card Toronto Maple Leafs putting up a fight against the Washington Capitals, who had the best record in the regular season.
The Leafs have the series tied at 2-2 thanks to dominant and energized play from their young stars, especially Auston Matthews. Despite winning the President’s Trophy each of the past two years, Washington has not lived up to expectations when it comes time for the postseason in recent memory.
Since they were Stanley Cup runners up in 1997-98, the Caps have not made an appearance in the Conference Finals despite having an immensely talented team of late.
This year, Washington perhaps has its most star studded roster to date, including skaters like Alexander Ovechkin, TJ Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom. The Capitals also have one of the league’s best netminders in Braden Holtby. But for Washington, all this star power has yet to translate into postseason success.
However, this year, the Capitals do truly seem to have met a better team. Toronto has been playing an incredible level of hockey, getting somewhat surprising contributions from players like Nikita Zaitsev and Nazem Kadri.
Zaitsev is playing in his first NHL season, after leading his Russian KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) team to deep postseason runs each of the past two years. Zaitsev’s contribution has been critical to the Leafs success, bringing an extra winning pedigree to the young team. Kadri has been playing some of the best hockey of his young career in this year’s postseason, helping the Leafs take a momentous series lead over the top-seeded Capitals.
Another Canadian team making their presence felt is the Ottawa Senators, who have looked in top form against Boston. The leadership and playmaking ability of captain Erik Karlsson has the Senators holding a 3-1 series lead.
Karlsson may not be a household NHL name, but he has quietly had one of the best seasons of any NHL defenseman with the third most points at his position. He leads the Sens in points and has quickly become one of the best passing players in the league. Period.
Karlsson was a huge part of Ottawa’s ability to take a decisive series lead in Game 3 with two stellar assists. The first gave the Senators their first goal of the game as he made a mind-boggling pass down the length of the ice to Mike Hoffman a doorstep opportunity. Karlsson was also in on Bobby Ryan’s game-winner in overtime, catching Boston on a bad line change. The Senators, led by an emerging star in Karlsson, have a chance to go deep in this year’s playoffs.
The third Canadian team that’s looked in top form has come much to the chagrin of Bay Area hockey fans. The Edmonton Oilers have given the San Jose Sharks significant troubles, earning back home ice advantage after the Sharks stole it away in Game 1.
The Oilers hadn’t made the playoffs in 10 years, but led by NHL leading scorer Connor McDavid, Edmonton looks like a competitor once again. The Sharks have looked in control at times against this Oilers side, but after regaining home ice, San Jose fans should not get too excited. This Edmonton team has played extremely well as a unit all season, especially with a budding superstar in McDavid. Don’t bet against these Oilers.
The last time a Canadian team hoisted the Stanley Cup was 1993. And while it’s far too early to predict one of these teams to win it all, don’t be shocked if Canada ends the drought and the Cup returns to the Great White North.
Bo Kendall is a sophomore communication major.