A year after zero Canadian teams made the playoffs, five made it to the post season dance, with one still standing as the conference finals begin. To the surprise of many, that one is the Ottawa Senators. Nobody on either side of the 49th parallel would have put any money on the Senators being the last Canadian team standing. Maybe had they been the last team to be eliminated in the first round, or even the second, but here the are, 4 wins away from playing for the Stanley Cup. If there wasn't already enough pressure on the team, how about having an entire nation of hockey crazed fans rooting them on to bring home the Stanley Cup. Or will they?
The Senators don't have the huge national fan support that the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens have, past on through generations having been the lone Canadian teams for decades until 1970 when the Vancouver Canucks became the third Canadian team. Heck, even in its own city, many citizens still cheer on the Leafs, despite Ottawa celebrating its 25th year in the league this year. The team failed to sell out game 1 of their second round series against New York, which isn't something new. The location of the Canadian Tire Centre, an apparent nightmare to get, might have something to do with that. That isn't to say the city isn't behind the team.
So, should the rest of Canada, get behind the Senators? The answer is clearly yes if you want to see the Stanley Cup come home to Canada. It's yes again if you've enjoy the way Erik Karlsson has played through the hairline fractures in his foot to lead his team to the conference final. It's yes once more if you want to rally behind a team where the starting goalie has to deal with a difficult situation at home; Craig Anderson's wife, battling cancer.
Ottawa reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2007, lead by Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley. Unfortunately, the team fizzled out in the Final, losing to the Anaheim Ducks in just 5 games. It was essentially the last great chance for the team to win a title during that period. They have made the playoffs in 6 of the last 10 years, including this season. Until this year, only once in that time, they were able to move beyond the first round. Does this mean even more good things to come?
It's been way too long -24 years to exact- since a Canadian team lifted Lords Stanley's Cup. The Montreal Canadiens won the 24th Stanley Cup in franchise history, defeating the Los Angeles Kings in just 5 games. It marked the only time Wayne Gretzky would lead the Kings to the Stanley Cup Final, years before they finally won its first title (2012), followed by a second championship a couple seasons (2014). For Montreal, it was the last time they played for the Cup.