Oh Canada: Will Canada's 22 year Stanley Cup drought end?

Tue Apr 14, 2015 1:05pm EDT
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By Cameron French

(Reuters) - Following the Ottawa Senators' sizzling run to secure a last-minute playoff berth, Canadian teams enter the Stanley Cup tournament in their greatest numbers since 2004, raising hopes of ending the country's 22-year Cup drought.

In all, five of the seven Canadian NHL franchises will compete in the 16-team playoff, a big shift from last year when only the Montreal Canadiens made the cut.

The Senators, who went 23-4-4 over their final 31 games, would seem to have momentum on their side, forcing their way into the postseason on the last day of the season.

But if common wisdom is that strong goaltending is key to successfully navigating four best-of-seven playoff series, the Montreal Canadiens and their MVP-candidate goalie Carey Price look good.

If you're a Canadian fan, you're looking for any reason to hope at this time of year even if the odds are stacked against you. Las Vegas betting sites currently favor U.S. teams New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks.

"We're a playoff team and we have as much of a chance as anyone," Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler told reporters after the team clinched a playoff berth last week, the first for the team since it moved north from Atlanta in 2011.

Along with the Jets, Senators and Canadiens, the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames will appear in the postseason, which kicks off on Wednesday.

The last Canadian team to hoist the chalice was the 1993 edition of the Canadiens, and the ensuing drought has been a frustrating stretch for a country that perhaps places more significance than any other in hockey success.   Continued...

A replica of the Stanley Cup, made from a water jug and some bowls from a dollar store, adorn a pond hockey game on Sturgeon Lake in the region of Kawartha Lakes, Ontario February 2, 2015.  REUTERS/Fred Thornhill