Here are the top 10 Canadian-based teams that had great chances to win the Stanley Cup in the last 16 years … but did not.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs, 1999
Pat Quinn’s crew set a franchise record with 45 wins during the regular season, good enough for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and they went all the way to the third round during their first playoff run in Air Canada Centre. After beating Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, however, Mats Sundin and the Leafs bowed out to Buffalo in the Eastern final.
9. Ottawa Senators, 2006
They had the second-best record during the regular season, but they had to go with rookie goaltender Ray Emery after Dominik Hasek suffered a season-ending injury at the Olympics. Then in the second round they had to play Buffalo, which finished only three points back of Ottawa during the regular season. The Sabres won it in five games, although three were in overtime.
8. Montreal Canadiens, 2010
The eighth seed in the Eastern Conference first knocked off the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals. Then they shocked Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. There should have been no stopping Michael Cammalleri and the Habs at that point, but they couldn’t get past Chris Pronger and the Philadelphia Flyers in the third round.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs, 2002
Pat Quinn’s team had 43 victories during the regular season and ended up as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. However, it needed seven games to get rid of both the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators before falling to the Carolina Hurricanes in six games in the Eastern final. Not helping matters was Mats Sundin’s missing 12 playoff games with a wrist injury.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs, 1994
Back when they were in the West, Pat Burns and the Buds had the conference’s second-best mark going into the post-season. They ousted Chicago and San Jose in the first two rounds before meeting up with the Vancouver Canucks in the third. Despite having 13 more points during the regular season, the Leafs were eliminated in five games.
5. Ottawa Senators, 2003
Sparked by Marian Hossa’s 45 goals, Jacques Martin’s club posted the NHL’s best regular-season record. They kept up their fine play through two rounds of the playoffs but were bounced by the New Jersey Devils in a hard-fought, seven-game Eastern Conference final. The Devils went on to beat the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the Stanley Cup final.
4. Ottawa Senators, 2007
Bryan Murray’s crew went into the post-season as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference but got rid of the Pittsburgh Penguins in just five games in the first round. Then they needed five games to dispense of New Jersey and only five more to topple top seed Buffalo and reach their first final. That’s where they ran into the Anaheim Ducks, who easily dispatched of them in — you guessed it — five games.
3. Edmonton Oilers, 2006
They were the eighth seed in the Western Conference, yet they upset the Detroit Red Wings in the first round and didn’t look back. With Chris Pronger and Shawn Horcoff leading the way, the Oilers battled back from a 3-1 series deficit against Carolina to force Game 7 but couldn’t close the deal.
2. Vancouver Canucks, 1994
Led by Trevor Linden, Pavel Bure and Kirk McLean, the Canucks had the third-worst record of all playoff teams but went on quite the unexpected run. After winning three straight overtime games to eliminate the Calgary Flames in seven games in the first round, they took Mark Messier and the New York Rangers all the way to Game 7 of the Cup final before bowing out with a 3-2 loss in the series finale.
1. Calgary Flames, 2004
After missing the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons, the Flames finally got back to the dance, albeit with the 11th-best record of all the playoff teams. They had a 3-2 series lead and it appeared Martin Gelinas scored what should have been the Cup-clinching goal late in Game 6, but the officials ruled otherwise and the Tampa Bay Lightning won in double overtime. Tampa then took Game 7 by a 2-1 score. At least they’ll always have the Red Mile.
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