Thursday, April 07, 2011

Hopes for Stanley's return rest with Montreal and Vancouver

As the Blazing Flame of Calgary flickers out this morning, Canadian ambitions of a hopeful Stanley Cup parade are reduced to two cities.

Calgary joined Toronto this week in the close but no cigar category as elimination from the playoff race became their destiny on Wednesday night, bringing to four the number of Canadian teams looking from the outside of the playoff possibilities.

They join Edmonton and Ottawa (the latter eliminated it seems back when Carrie Underwood released her last CD) as part of the Canadian collective where hopes and dreams meet cold reality.

And while the reduction of four from the playoff pool might make scheduling easier for the CBC, the fact is for Canadian hockey fans this spring the annual playoff race will be less enthralling than it could have been, should have been, had the home sides summoned up enough to at least grasp a placement in the post season tournament.

There are major disappointments for the likes of Ottawa and Calgary, where pre season at least, the idea that the playoffs would be out of the question would have been regarded as heresy.

For Edmonton and Toronto fans, there was hope that progress was being made in the rebuilding of their teams and while the signs are there and in particular Toronto had a good late season run, the fact is that April and May will have far too many open dates in those two cities as well.

The pursuit of Lord Stanley's trophy will be the domain of but two from above the 49th parallel, Vancouver perhaps more of a favourite than Montreal, owing to its remarkable regular season.

Montreal at twenty points behind the Canucks in total points still would seem to be a team that would have to surprise a few teams to reach the Stanley Cup finals, the Canucks on the other hand would seem to be the team that most expect to see going deep into May with parade ambitions.

For Roberto Luongo, the Sedins et al however, injuries have been a constant theme through the year and never more so than heading into the stretch, where a number of key players have suffered setbacks, the most serious of all of course the eye injury to Manny Maholtra, which may not just bring to an end his playoff season but perhaps his career.

Still, through the year the Canucks managed to take each and every injury in stride, a work ethic that seemed to carry them to the President's trophy and holding home ice advantage throughout these 2011 playoffs.

The dream scenario for Canadian fans will be a Montreal/Vancouver Stanley Cup final, there's a lot of hockey to be played between this Sunday's season finale and the last puck drop for Stanley, but for fans across the nation, if his Lordship's mug is to be returned to the land of its introduction, it will have to be through the hands of Les Canadiens or the Canucks.

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