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

It’s a rule that spring involves Canada erratically, a number of gentle days adopted by a foot of snow adopted by rain adopted by a day so scorching you’ll 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 Could 1967, the Toronto Maple Leafs gained their thirteenth — and final — Stanley Cup. Round this time annually, town of Toronto will get somewhat twitchy. Often the Raptors present a distraction — however not this 12 months. They’re down three video games towards the 76ers.

The N.H.L. playoffs start Could 2, and as of this writing, the image appears to be like like this.

Canadian followers at the moment have three rooting selections: the Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. The Vancouver Canucks may make it. The Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets is not going to.

If the playoffs began immediately, 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 finest 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 observe the celebrities, particularly in the course of 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 probably the most repeated and moped-upon reality round this time of 12 months: The Stanley Cup has not been gained by a Canadian workforce since Montreal did so in 1993. It’s all somewhat 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 simple to like and straightforward to detest, relying in your postal code and generational loyalties.

One answer is to select a workforce based mostly in america with a improbable Canadian participant, a workforce just like the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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

I spent Crosby’s rookie 12 months in Pittsburgh to observe a child saddled with placing the salary-cap period of hockey on the map. His workforce 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 lively participant to achieve the mark and the forty sixth in N.H.L. historical past.

A number 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 in regards to the workforce’s playoff possibilities.

“I’ve an awesome appreciation for with the ability to play so long as I’ve,” he stated. “It’s a privilege. Don’t get me improper, I need to play lots longer, however the extra you play the extra you perceive that it’s not simple.”

But he nonetheless makes it look easy. Crosby, with 29 targets (9 of them recreation winners) and 52 assists by 65 video games, is having a exceptional season — with out fanfare, which has all gone Alex Ovechkin’s means 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 very best 200-foot participant within the recreation, and considered one of its most artistic playmakers.

Forward of the playoffs, I’ll have way 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 concentrate on the Rangers-Penguins sequence (as the present matchup stands) within the Japanese Convention.

In case you are searching for a bandwagon aside from the Flames, Oilers and Maple Leafs, it will be sensible to by no means wager towards Crosby.

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

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

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  • Are we dwelling 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 bought his begin as a police reporter for The Hamilton Spectator in Ontario, and went on to discover uncomfortable topics in his work, successful 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 workforce, 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 Yr Award after one common season with the workforce.

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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