Any hopes Canadian hockey fans had of ending the country’s lengthy Stanley Cup drought were dashed a lot sooner than normal this season.
The Ottawa Senators were defeated 2-1 by the New York Rangers in Game 7 of their first-round series on Thursday, ensuring that the Stanley Cup will remain south of the border for an 18th straight season.
It marks the first time since 1996 that a Canadian team hasn’t even managed to crack the second round of the post-season.
Five of the seven Canadian teams were out of the running before the playoffs even began. Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto were eliminated from playoff contention early after disappointing seasons.
Calgary and Winnipeg stayed in the picture a little longer before their post-season drives stalled, but ultimately the task of bringing professional hockey’s ultimate prize back home laid with the Vancouver Canucks and the Senators.
The Canucks were Cup finalists last season and holders of the league’s best regular-season record for two years running and were expected to mount a serious challenge. But they ran into a physical Los Angeles Kings club and petered out in five games.
The Senators, touted by many to miss the playoffs entirely at the start of the year, looked like they might carry the nation’s Cup burden when they took a 3-2 series lead over the top-seeded New York Rangers. But New York put an end to Ottawa’s upset bid with hard-fought victories in Games 6 and 7.
The 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens were the last Canadian team to hoist the Stanley Cup. Since then Vancouver (twice), Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa have made it to the Cup final before losing the final series.
The last all-Canadian final was 1989, when Calgary beat Montreal in six games.