Boasting 13 roster players from the Great White North, the Calgary Flames are “Canada’s team” this post-season, but they share the honor with the Washington Capitals. Fittingly, the Flames are taking on the Anaheim Ducks in the second-round, the team that ices the most American players, making for a new twist on an old rivalry.
The argument comes every post-season about which team – be it a Canadian club or not – is actually “Canada’s team.” While some will cheer for whichever Canadian teams are left standing, others base their fandom on wanting to see an underdog fight through and win the Cup. There’s one other way, though: by breaking down the rosters by nationality.
Using the rosters teams have iced during the post-season, we broke down not only which team is Canada’s club, but which are the most representative of other nations. So, while it’s not a perfect science, what it serves to point out is which teams best represent the hockey-playing nations. It also adds a bit of a twist to some of the second-round matchups.
CANADA’S TEAM: Calgary Flames, Washington Capitals
Both Calgary and Washington would be classified as Canada’s team going simply by the roster spots taken up by Canadian players. Both clubs, the Flames and the Capitals, boast 13 Canadian players, two more than any other team still left standing in the post-season. The next closest clubs, the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers, have 11.
What might tip the scales in Calgary’s favor, though, is that unlike Washington, the Flames have 13 skaters who are Canadian, with the Capitals icing only 11 skaters from the Great White North. Boosting Washington into a tie with Calgary is that both their goaltenders – starter Braden Holtby and backup Justin Peters – are, as Don Cherry would say, good Canadian boys.
After the thumping that Calgary took in Game 1 of their second-round series with Anaheim, the best chance to watch the Stanley Cup tour around Canada this summer would be if Washington were to take home the trophy. It is interesting, though, that the Flames and Ducks would meet this post-season because…
U.S.A.’S TEAM: Anaheim Ducks
With eight players from the United States, Anaheim is the most star-spangled of the remaining playoff clubs. Not only are Americans plentiful on the Ducks’ roster, they’re also some of the star players.
Ryan Kesler was one of the standouts of the first round with back-to-back big games that helped Anaheim close out their sweep of the Winnipeg Jets, and Emerson Etem’s goal in Game 4 was a dandy. Patrick Maroon and Nate Thompson are also big parts of the Ducks’ roster, and both call the United States home.
To help push along a Canada vs. U.S.A. rivalry in the second round between the Ducks and Flames is the fact that no team ices fewer Canadians than Anaheim. Only seven players hail from north of the border. We imagine there has been some talk about this in the dressing room.
RUSSIA’S TEAM: Tampa Bay Lightning
Most would have figured the answer to this would have been the Washington Capitals, but that’s only because Alex Ovechkin’s star burns so bright it’s hard to realize he’s one of only a few Russian players on the club. Instead, Russia’s team is the Lightning thanks to four promising players.
Of the four Russian players on Tampa Bay’s roster – Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, Nikita Nesterov and Andrei Vasilevskiy – not a single one was alive in the 1980s. The oldest, Namestnikov, was born in 1992 and even he wasn’t born until November of that year. Talk about a young crop with a lot of room to grow.
SWEDEN’S TEAM: Chicago Blackhawks
It’s not by much, but no team in the second round has mined Swedish talent quite like the Blackhawks – and it’s not just role players either.
Big-minute shutdown defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and oft-partner Johnny Oduya make up one of the Blackhawks’ best pairings and they’re fellow countrymen. Marcus Kruger, Chicago’s fourth-line center who coach Joel Quenneville trusts in big situations, also calls Sweden home. Rounding out the group is Joakim Nordstrom, who had a pair of good games in the first round before being taken out of the lineup for the more experienced Andrew Desjardins.
FINLAND’S TEAM: Minnesota Wild
This isn’t even a contest. Other than the Wild, who have five Finns in their lineup, no remaining team has more than one roster player from the land that brought us Teemu Selanne.
Mikko Koivu is the most notable Finnish player on the Minnesota roster, but Erik Haula, Mikael Granlund and Sean Bergenheim, the Wild’s trade deadline acquisition, are Koivu’s fellow countrymen. Niklas Backstrom hasn’t suited up for the Wild yet — and he likely won’t — but he’s another of Minnesota’s Finns.
One of the best international rivalries is Finland vs. Sweden, so it’s only fitting that, like Canada’s Flames and America’s Ducks, the Wild and Blackhawks will faceoff in the second round to pit the Finns against the Swedes.