With the first round of the NHL Playoffs drawing to a close, only two Canadian teams remain in the hunt for the Stanley Cup: the Montreal Canadiens and the Calgary Flames.
We knew at least two would be advancing since four Canadian teams matched up against each other in the Conference Quarterfinals, thereby automatically eliminating two from the second round. There was also the Winnipeg Jets who made their playoff debut against the Ducks but couldn’t find a way to beat the playoff veterans.
Here’s a look at how the Canadian NHL teams fared in Round 1:
The Winnipeg Jets
The Jets were the first team in the NHL to fall in Round 1 and the only team to be swept. The games were exhilarating, and fantastically close, but ultimately disappointing as the Anaheim Ducks managed 4 straight victories to end the Jets’ dream run. As Arpon Basu chronicled over at NHL.com, the series, despite the sweep, was a win for Winnipeg and its fans.
Two of the four games were decided by a goal, including the heartbreaking OT defeat in Game 3, the first game of the series held at the MTS Centre. The Jets seemed poised to win, bolstered by the roar of the crowd, but it wasn’t enough.
After 19 years of wait, the Jets faithful only enjoyed 4 playoff games, and only 2 in Winnipeg. It was a thrilling experience, nonetheless, one that united a city and a hockey team. The Jets eaerned invaluable playoff experience for next season and will be gunning for a 2nd consecutive appearance when their season starts up again in October.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators
The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators in 6 games. The Habs stormed out to a surprising 3-0 series lead, but struggled to get the fourth win. The Habs had trouble against the Sens all season long and when the Senators found their game they made it exceptionally difficult on the Canadiens, and their fans. Each goalie earned a shutout with Carey Price stifling the Senators offense for the series win.
Senators head coach Dave Cameron, coaching in his first NHL playoffs, made crucial adjustments to his lineup after Game 3 that proved effective and managed to limit the Habs’ scoring chances throughout the series. The Habs finally closed out round 1 after a high-octane rushing game on Sunday night at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre that required a 43 save performance from Price. Still, credit is due the Canadiens for their tenacity. The Senators scored first in 5 of the 6 games though the Habs outshot them in all but the final game.
The Habs will open Round 2 at the Bell Centre but against who is yet to be determined. The Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings series will be determined by the outcome of Wednesday’s Game 7. The schedule will be released once Round 1 is finished.
Calgary Flames vs. Vancouver Canucks
The Calgary Flames defeated the Vancouver Canucks in 6 games. The Flames and Canucks finished neck in neck at season’s end making the top seed a matter of home ice formality. After splitting the first two games at Vancouver’s Rogers’ Arena, Calgary won both games at the Scotiabank Saddledome giving them an almost insurmountable 3-1 edge in the series.
With their season on the line, Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins turned to goaltender Ryan Miller, who turned aside all of Vancouver’s shots but one to stay in the series. Ultimately the Flames were too deep, too prepared and too physical for the Canucks to handle. The Canucks had an early 3-0 lead in Game 6, but couldn’t stifle a Calgary offense that not only forced a tie but erupted for 4 unanswered goals in the 3rd period after Vancouver scored the go-ahead goal.
The Flames now have a date with the Anaheim Ducks. The schedule will be announced after Round 1 is finished.