Canada’s Stanley Cup Hopes Rest on Leafs, Flames, Oilers

It’s a rule that spring involves Canada erratically, a couple of gentle days adopted by a foot of snow adopted by rain adopted by a day so scorching you’d swear it was summer time, normally adopted by sleet and extra snow. On the day I used to be born in April my mom wanted a heavy winter coat on the best way to the hospital, and by the point I had arrived within the afternoon it was scorching sufficient to go to the seaside.

One thing else occurred that very same spring, however in contrast to the unpredictable climate, it has not occurred since. In Might 1967, the Toronto Maple Leafs gained their thirteenth — and final — Stanley Cup. Round this time every year, the town of Toronto will get a bit twitchy. Sometimes the Raptors present a distraction — however not this 12 months. They’re down three video games in opposition to the 76ers.

The N.H.L. playoffs start Might 2, and as of this writing, the image seems like this.

Canadian followers presently have three rooting selections: the Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. The Vancouver Canucks would possibly make it. The Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets won’t.

If the playoffs began right this moment, the Oilers would face the Los Angeles Kings; the Flames would play the Nashville Predators; and the Maple Leafs would play the Tampa Bay Lightning, winner of the final two Stanley Cups.

That doesn’t sound hopeful. However the Leafs have been having fun with good occasions, largely due to the American heart Auston Matthews, who has put collectively his greatest season but. The Flames have Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. The Oilers characteristic Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

In hockey, it’s most enjoyable to comply with the celebs, particularly through the playoffs. However star gamers haven’t all the time ensured playoff success. The Maple Leafs haven’t gained a championship in 55 years — they usually haven’t even gained a playoff spherical since 2004.

McDavid, for all his otherworldly expertise, has gained solely a single playoff sequence (in 2017) and, aside from a first-round loss in 2021, the Oilers have missed the playoffs in each different season since dropping within the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006.

The Calgary Flames haven’t gained a playoff sequence since 2015.

Cue essentially the most repeated and moped-upon reality round this time of 12 months: The Stanley Cup has not been gained by a Canadian crew since Montreal did so in 1993. It’s all a bit grim.

Hockey is a regional curiosity. The province of Alberta will divide neatly, and rabidly, between the Oilers and Flames, however Toronto presents an issue for these exterior its sprawling borders. The Leafs, just like the New York Yankees, are straightforward to like and simple to detest, relying in your postal code and generational loyalties.

One resolution is to choose a crew primarily based in america with a incredible Canadian participant, a crew just like the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sidney Crosby, in his seventeenth season with the crew that drafted him first general in 2005 because the league emerged from a lockout and a canceled 2004-05 season, has quietly been having the most effective seasons within the N.H.L.

I spent Crosby’s rookie 12 months in Pittsburgh to comply with a child saddled with placing the salary-cap period of hockey on the map. His crew gained solely 22 video games, however he led the Penguins with 102 factors. Greatness was not far-off. Crosby gained his first Stanley Cup in 2009, and two extra in 2016 and 2017. Packed between championships have been quite a few Hart, Conn Smythe, Artwork Ross and Rocket Richard trophies. On Feb. 15, Crosby scored his 500th career goal, changing into solely the second energetic participant to achieve the mark and the forty sixth in N.H.L. historical past.

A couple of days later, I noticed him in Toronto when the Penguins performed the Leafs. It was our first prolonged dialog since his rookie season. Now 34, he was relaxed and reflective, and excited concerning the crew’s playoff possibilities.

“I’ve a fantastic appreciation for with the ability to play so long as I’ve,” he mentioned. “It’s a privilege. Don’t get me improper, I need to play rather a lot longer, however the extra you play the extra you perceive that it’s not straightforward.”

But he nonetheless makes it look easy. Crosby, with 29 targets (9 of them sport winners) and 52 assists via 65 video games, is having a exceptional season — with out fanfare, which has all gone Alex Ovechkin’s method as he climbs the profession targets listing.

Crosby, whose 1.25 points-per-game common edges Ovechkin, continues to show his longevity in a sport that takes an unimaginable bodily toll. He stays the perfect 200-foot participant within the sport, and one in every of its most artistic playmakers.

Forward of the playoffs, I’ll have rather more from my dialog with Crosby, and perception into what has made him such an everlasting and dominant participant 17 seasons into his profession.

The New York Occasions will present protection of the N.H.L. playoffs, with an early deal with the Rangers-Penguins sequence (as the present matchup stands) within the Jap Convention.

In case you are on the lookout for a bandwagon other than the Flames, Oilers and Maple Leafs, it will be smart to by no means wager in opposition to Crosby.

I requested him what milestone is subsequent. “A Stanley Cup,” he mentioned.

This week’s Trans Canada part was compiled by Vjosa Isai.

  • Toronto’s marijuana outlets, among the many choose companies permitted to function throughout lockdowns, flourished all through the pandemic. Nowhere is that extra obvious than alongside Queen Avenue West, The Occasions’s Toronto bureau chief, Catherine Porter, writes.

  • Are we residing in a simulation? The Canadian creator Emily St. John Mandel explores the query in her newest novel and on “The Ezra Klein Present,” a New York Occasions Opinion podcast.

  • The documentary filmmaker John Zaritsky obtained his begin as a police reporter for The Hamilton Spectator in Ontario, and went on to discover uncomfortable topics in his work, profitable an Oscar. Mr. Zaritsky died in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was 78.

  • Man Lafleur, a treasured Hockey Corridor of Famer who helped lead the Montreal Canadiens to 5 Stanley Cup championships, died on Friday. He was 70. The Canadian sports activities journalist David Shoalts writes that even on a glamorous Canadiens crew, Lafleur was a rock star.

  • These Canadian marathon runners started competing as youngsters in British Columbia, and made their debuts on the Boston Marathon on Monday.

  • Toronto Raptors ahead Scottie Barnes, 20, is up for the N.B.A.’s Rookie of the 12 months Award after one common season with the crew.

A local of Ancaster, Ontario, Shawna Richer lives in Toronto and is an assistant sports activities editor for The New York Occasions. She has spent greater than 25 years as a sports activities journalist in Canada and is the creator of “The Child: A Season With Sidney Crosby and the New N.H.L.” Comply with her on Twitter at @richershawna.

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