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Four chances to end Canada's Stanley Cup drought


After 192 days and 1,312 regular-season games, four Canadian teams have punched their tickets for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

With that comes the chance to be the first Canadian team to win an NHL championship in 31 years.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks have all enjoyed successful regular-season campaigns – but how will they fare in the postseason as the puck drops on Round 1?

Toronto opens the playoffs Saturday night in Boston against the Bruins – a club that swept its Atlantic Division rival across four meetings in 2023-24 and left deep scars on the Leafs' core in seven-game postseason losses in 2018 and 2019.

Boston outscored Toronto 14-7 this season, with its goaltenders putting up a .949 save percentage and its offence sporting a 30 per cent power play.

The Bruins blew a lead atop the division to the Florida Panthers in the final stretch of the regular season, with losses in three of their last four games to set up the meeting with the Leafs. Toronto had little to play for over its final few weeks – other than Auston Matthews' pursuit of 70 goals – before finishing with four straight defeats.

Toronto has five holdovers from the group that blew a 3-2 series lead against the Bruins five years ago in Matthews, Mitch Marner, William NylanderJohn Tavares and Morgan Rielly.

Boston has six players remaining from that winning squad in Brad MarchandDavid PastrnakJake DeBruskDanton HeinenCharlie McAvoy and Brandon CarloTrent Frederic was also on the team, but didn't suit up in those playoffs.

Boston's backbone remains the two-headed goaltending monster of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman as it weathered the retirements of captain Patrice Bergeron and fellow centre David Krejci this season.

Getting to the front of the net will be crucial for the Leafs, who won a playoff round for the first time in nearly two decades last spring when they downed Tampa in six. Toronto added the likes of Tyler BertuzziMax Domi and Ryan Reaves up front in a series of off-season moves meant to pay dividends at this time of year.

The Bruins haven't lost to Toronto in the playoffs since 1959.

The Jets are slated for an intriguing bout against the Colorado Avalanche in the opening round.

Could Winnipeg's success against the Avalanche this season could be a preview of things to come this spring?

Winnipeg beat Colorado in all three of their games this year, by scores of 4-2 and 6-2 in December, and a dominant 7-0 showing last Saturday.

Defenceman Josh Morrissey had two goals and seven points in those three games. Forwards Gabriel Vilardi and Adam Lowry each recorded three goals, and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck was 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage.

The Jets have allowed only 199 goals this season – tops in the league. It will be a classic defence vs. offence matchup against the Avalanche, whose 304 goals rank tops in the league.

Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon, among the Hart Trophy favourites, finished second in the NHL with 140 points (51 goals and 89 assists) and was the lone Avs skater to tally multiple points (one goal, three assists) in the regular-season series between the two teams.

The Jets have advanced past the first round only once in the last six seasons, while the Avalanche have failed to win at least one playoff series just once in that time frame.  

The two franchises have never met in the playoffs before, but their regular-season matchups have been tightly contested in recent memory - outside of this season. Since the 2018-19 campaign, the Avalanche are 8-8-2 against the Jets. 

The Canucks will have home-ice advantage as they take on the Nashville Predators in the first round.

The Pacific Division champions won all three meetings against the Predators this season, a 3-2 win in Nashville on Oct. 24, a 5-2 victory in Vancouver on Oct. 31, and again 5-2 at Nashville on Dec. 19. 

Defenceman Quinn Hughes led the Canucks with six assists in three games against Nashville this season. Forward Elias Pettersson contributed four goals and one assist.

J.T. Miller led the Canucks with a career-high 103 points (37 goals, 66 assists) this season. Pettersson added 34 goals and 89 points, while Brock Boeser scored a career-high 73 points. Hughes led all defencemen with a career-high 17 goals and 91 points in fifth NHL season.

Goaltender Thatcher Demko finished the season with a 35-13-2 record to go along with a 2.44 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. He missed over a month with a knee injury but returned for the Canucks' second-last game of the season, stopping 39-of-40 shots in a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames.

The Predators are a different team from the one the Canucks faced earlier this season. Since beginning their 18-game point streak on Feb.17, Nashville is second in the league in wins (20) and points (43). During that span, the Preds have outscored their opponents 106-71, the second-highest differential in the NHL, while scoring the third-most goals per game (3.79) and allowing the fourth-fewest goals per game (2.54). They have a 20-5-3 record during this span.

Nashville is led by forward Filip Forsberg, who had a career-high 48 goals and 94 points this season. Captain Roman Josi is once again in consideration for the Norris Trophy, posting 23 goals and 85 points, while Gustav Nyquist put up a career-high 75 points. Goaltender Juuse Saros went 35-24-5 with a 2.86 GAA and .906 save percentage.

The teams have met once before in the postseason, with the Canucks winning in six games in the 2011 Western Conference semifinals.

The Edmonton Oilers will have home-ice advantage in their first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Oilers went 3-1 against the Kings this season, including a shootout win on Dec. 30.

Connor McDavid finished the campaign with 132 points and became the fourth player in NHL history to have at least 100 assists in a season. Leon Draisaitl had 41 goals and 106 points, while Zach Hyman scored a career-high 54 goals. After a shaky start to the season, Stuart Skinner finished with a 36-16-5 record with a 2.62 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.

McDavid led the Oilers with two goals and seven points in the four games against Los Angeles. Skinner started every game against the Kings, compiling a 1.99 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.

L.A. was led up front by 70-point men Adrian Kempe (28 goals and 75 points), Kevin Fiala (29 goals and 73 points) and captain Anze Kopitar (26 goals and 70 points).

No. 1 netminder Cam Talbot had a 27-20-6 record with a 2.50 goals-against average and .913 save percentage and the team surrendered just 215 goals this season, third best in the league.

Young forward Quinton Byfield led the Kings in scoring against Edmonton with two goals and six points. In goal, Talbot was 0-1-1 with a 2.46 goals-against average and .889 save percentage, while David Rittich was 1-1-0 with a 2.04 goals-against average and .930 save percentage.

The Kings were eliminated by the Oilers in the first round of the playoff last season in six games.