Canadians eye glory in upset-filled post-season

Thu Apr 29, 2010 2:44pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - A series of first round upsets has thrown the chase for the Stanley Cup wide open, stoking the championship hopes of outsiders and underdogs with the second round set to begin on Thursday.

Hockey-mad Canadians, hoping to tap into the Olympic gold medal mojo from earlier in the year, have an eye on Vancouver and another on Montreal as the Canucks and Canadiens continue their drives to end a long Stanley Cup drought.

Not since the Canadiens landed the trophy in 1993 has Lord Stanley's famous mug been paraded through the streets of a Canadian city and with two teams still standing among the final eight, residents of the Great White North believe the time for another party has finally arrived.

While the Canadiens' shock win over the Washington Capitals provided the first round stunner it was by no means the only upset.

The NHL playoffs got off to a rollercoaster start with the three top seeds in the East conference -- Washington, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres -- all eliminated.

In the West the top three seeds -- San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks -- all cleared the first hurdle but not without some heart-stopping scrapes.

The best-of-seven conference semi-finals open in the West on Thursday with the Sharks hosting the resurgent Detroit Red Wings. Chicago welcome Vancouver for Game One on Saturday.

The East semi-finals have the sixth seeded Boston Bruins facing off against seventh seeded Philadelphia Flyers, who only squeaked into the post-season with a shootout win over the New York Rangers, while the Penguins and Canadiens open on Friday at the Igloo in Pittsburgh.   Continued...

<p>Montreal Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak makes a save on Washington Capitals Brooks Laich as Tomas Plekanec moves in during Game 7 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final hockey game in Washington April 28, 2010. REUTERS/Molly Riley</p>