Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Breaking the Hex: Is this Canada's Year?

Just in case you needed someone to remind you of the obvious, here I am to save the day. It's been 14 years since a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup, and frankly Canada is getting a little antsy. It's gone so far that the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) has started an advertising campaign called 'Canada's Best Chance' imploring all Canadians to pull for the Senators, regardless of their commitment to other clubs.

Calgary (2004) and Edmonton (2006) had previously made it to the Finals in the last two years, but fell just short in Game Seven. It's almost like not getting a date for years, then when a girl finally asks you to come back to her place after a date, the night ends with reruns of Sex and the City.

Wednesday night, barring a Sabres comeback of Boston Red Sox proportions, Ottawa will almost certainly make it three years in a row that we will see a Canadian team in the Finals.

Can the Sens become the first Canadian team to hoist the cup in 14 years?
Shaun Best/REUTERS

Between 1976 and 1993, a team from north of the border raised the cup 12 of a possible 18 times. It was almost as if sending the cup to Canada was a rite of spring. No team has won it since 1993, and until Calgary in 2004, it had been a decade since any Canadian team even made the Finals (Vancouver in 1994).

The force is strong within these Senators, and unlike their predecessors, could be the favorite heading into the finals. Calgary and Edmonton were the sixth and eighth seeds respectively, and just found a way to get hot at the end of the season. The Sens, on the other hand, were dominant all season long, finishing third in points in the East and second in scoring (behind Buffalo). Of course, they're also streaking through the quad and into the gymnasium at exactly the right time, recording an 11-2 playoff record to date and leading the league in playoff goals. There's no better time to get on a hot streak than the spring.

It's not all about the offense, either. Ottawa's defense, highlighted by Chris Phillips, Wade Redden, Anton Volchenkov and Andrej Meszaros has turned it on at the right time, helping net minder Ray Emery to record three playoff shut outs and a team GAA of just 1.89.

Most importantly, the Sens will look to gain some extra rest on their Finals opponents by finishing off the Sabres tomorrow night. It looks as if the Detroit/Anaheim series out west could go the full seven games through May 24th with both teams just beating the heck out of each other. That's a full week's rest for the leagues hottest team. Watch out. The Sens are good, and they're going to be well rested and healthy.

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