The NHL consisted of just 12 clubs back in 1969/70 when all playoff teams were from American cities, but there were just two Canadian teams, Montreal and Toronto. There are now seven Canadian squads in the 30-team league with 16 of those clubs making the playoffs. When Montreal failed to reach the postseason back then it was considered big news since it was the first time in 22 years they had fallen short. Also, they had won 10 Stanley Cups during that 22-year period.
No Canadian club has hoisted the Stanley Cup around an NHL rink since the Montreal Canadiens won the silverware back in the 1992/93 season. That winless streak will now last for at least another year as all seven Canadian-based teams have officially been knocked out of the playoff race. This is the first time the postseason will face off without at least one Canadian side since the 1969-70 campaign and it means an American franchise will win the cup for the 22nd straight year.
The last Canadian team with any hope of reaching the postseason was the Ottawa Senators. But even though they managed to down the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on March 30th they were knocked out of contention when the Philadelphia Flyers erased a 1-0 deficit to Washington with five minutes to play to beat them 2-1 in a shootout. Five Canadian clubs skated in the playoffs last season with the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs being the only two that missed out. The 2013/14 campaign wasn’t one to write home about either though as Montreal was the only team to play more than 82 games. And let’s not forget, there were only two Canadian sides in the 2010/11 and 2011/12 postseasons.
The Habs still had a shot at the postseason when taking to the ice for their season finale though. The New York Rangers had already beaten the Detroit Red Wings by a score of 9-5 earlier that day with New York needing at last five goals to keep their chances alive. The final score infuriated Canadiens’ fans since Detroit had already made the playoffs and they felt the Wings had thrown the game. This meant Montreal could still reach the postseason with a win or tie in Chicago. In fact, they could even afford to lose as long as they scored five goals.
Needless to say, the Habs failed in their quest, but did give it a determined effort. Chicago had a 3-2 lead entering the third period, but extended it to 5-2 with just over nine minutes remaining in the game. Montreal coach Claude Ruel figured a win or tie were out of the question so decided to pull goalie Rogatien Vachon as often as he could for the remainder of the contest in order to score three more goals. That didn’t work either though as the Hawks skated away with a 10-2 victory courtesy of five empty-net goals. The Rangers advanced to the playoffs that season as they tied Montreal for fourth place on points, but scored more goals than the Habs.
There will still be plenty of Canadian players for hardcore fans north of the border to cheer for this postseason on the 16 American teams. The Canadian franchises will take a hit to the wallet though since they’ll be missing out on revenue such as ticket, merchandise, and concession-stand sales. Canadian television broadcasters will also be sweating especially Rogers Sportsnet, who have a multi-billion dollar deal in place to show the NHL playoffs. The postseason will go as usual, but it may be a bit difficult to pull in high ratings at least seven of Canada’s major cities this year.