Will a Canadian Team Win the Stanley Cup?
It was the late spring of 1993 as legendary goalie Patrick Roy lifted the Stanley Cup. His Montreal Canadiens won their 24th championship and the eighth by a Canadian team in a decade as 18,000 fans cheered raucously in the old Montreal Forum. What a moment it was.
Flash forward 25 years later and the Stanley Cup scene couldn't be more different. Had someone said the American state of California would have three more Stanley Cup championships than the entire nation of Canada and they would be laughed out of the building. But that's the reality today.
Last season, five Canadian teams made the postseason and although half of them have tragically floundered this season, hope springs anew in the form of not one, not two, but three Canadian franchises ready to represent Canada in the big stage. We examine the case for each of these three Stanley Cup contenders (odds via SportsInteraction).
Toronto Maple Leafs
Stanley Cup Odds: +900
Led by sophomore wonder Auston Matthews, the Leafs youth movement is ahead of schedule and are currently tied for fourth in the league in goals per game with 3.28 and are sixth in goal differential at +28. Even more impressive, they are eighth in the penalty kill at 82.7 per cent efficiency and average the third-least penalties in minutes per game (6:58).
If the Leafs have a glaring hole, it is their defence. The Leafs lack a solid shutdown defenceman or a veteran presence who can slow the game down for the young bucks. The Leafs allow the fourth-most shots per game at 34.1 Fortunately, goaltender Frederik Andersen is having a Vezina-caliber season in net.
If the Leafs are to have a real shot at the cup, they will not only need for Andersen to keep standing on his head but also to tighten up on defence.
They can score goals in bunches but come playoff time, they'll need to play better defence.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Stanley Cup Odds: +900
Many will consider the Jets a surprise team this season but Winnipeg has always had the tools to be a cup contender. They just missed one essential ingredient: solid goaltending. Connor Hellebuyck has backstopped the team to the tune of 34 wins (3rd), 2.40 goals against average (9th), and six shutouts (6th).
But Hellebuyck is just a piece of the puzzle. The Jets have arguably the best team from top to bottom and it says a lot that this team hardly skipped a beat when topline centre Mark Scheifele went down with an injury. Since returning, Scheifele has gone on a tear with 13 points in 11 games. Acquiring Paul Stastny from the Blues gives the Jets three high-calibre centres in time for a Stanley Cup run.
The Jets are ranked in the top-five in most major categories including goals scored (3rd), goals against (5th), and goal differential (t-4th). Their only flaw is that they are a bit lacking of playoff experience as a team although players like Dustin Byfuglien and Stastny have plenty.
The Jets could be Canada's best shot at the cup.
Stanley Cup Odds: +2800
Watch out for the Calgary Flames. They may sit a few spots outside the wild card, but they are a dangerous team if they make it in. The Flames got eliminated in the playoffs quickly last season but are a year older and wiser. Statistically, the Flames don't impress but they have a rare combination of speed and physicality. The latter is the x-factor.
The Flames lead the league in penalties with 298 and are second in PIM per game (11:33). With guys like super pest Matthew Tkachuk and scrappy Garnet Hathaway, the Flames are always tough team to play against despite their record. But perhaps their biggest trump card lies in between the pipes with Mike Smith.
Smith has a solid .921 SV% with 2.53 GAA this season but can get red-hot during the postseason. In 19 playoff games, Smith has a .945 SV% on 1.88 GA including single-handedly carrying the Coyotes to the Conference Finals in 2012.
If the Flames put it all together, they could have a Cinderella run.
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Category : NHL News
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