In N.H.L. Playoffs, a Canadian Divide Between Winners and Losers

TORONTO — Right here, within the a part of Canada that likes to think about itself as the middle of the nation — and because the middle of ice hockey — the N.H.L. playoffs shortly and predictably withered. However hockey is raging like wild roses in Alberta, option to the west.

The second spherical of the postseason begins Tuesday, and Canada, which had three groups within the area at first of the postseason, is down to 2.

In Toronto, the Maple Leafs misplaced a Sport 7 to the reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, extending and setting a number of ignominious information. The Leafs, for instance, turned the first team in the history of the N.H.L., N.B.A. and Main League Baseball to lose a winner-take-all sport within the opening spherical of the playoffs in 5 consecutive seasons.

In Alberta, the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames every gained Sport 7s to advance, deliciously, and can meet within the playoffs for the primary time since 1991.

Oilers middle Connor McDavid, who’s broadly considered the most effective participant within the sport, scored after a relentless effort Saturday as his workforce eradicated the Los Angeles Kings. Then, on Sunday, Johnny Gaudreau, the left winger who led the Flames with 115 factors within the common season, scored to beat the Dallas Stars in extra time to guide the Battle of Alberta.

(The Battle of Alberta is just like the Subway Collection between the Yankees and the Mets — solely as an alternative of using the 7 and 4 trains you make a three-hour automotive journey working north-south on Freeway 2 by way of the prairies. And generally you get a goalie fight.)

The most important stars have scored the most important objectives when it has mattered most in these playoffs. In New York, the Rangers eradicated the Pittsburgh Penguins after the star winger Artemi Panarin scored in extra time in Sport 7.

However not in Toronto. In 9 consecutive makes an attempt to win a sport that will have eradicated their opponent in a first-round playoff collection, courting to 2004, the Maple Leafs have misplaced. They haven’t gained a Stanley Cup since the 1966-67 season, and on Saturday evening, they eclipsed the Rangers’ 54-year championship drought from 1940 to 1994. They’ve been within the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, and did not advance every time.

In a information convention after Toronto’s Sport 7 loss to the Lightning, the Toronto gamers, low-voiced and red-eyed, had been unhappy.

“It’s arduous to elucidate,” the workforce’s captain, John Tavares, a former star of the Islanders who was born in suburban Toronto and who signed a $77 million, seven-year contract with the membership he famously adored as a baby in 2018, mentioned of the loss. “It hurts. It’s disappointing. We’re attempting to go all the way in which, and we haven’t been capable of get previous this hurdle.”

Auston Matthews, the American middle who scored a league-best 60 objectives within the common season, cap pulled low over his eyes, mentioned, “We’re very dissatisfied.”

Mitch Marner, a winger who grew up in suburban Toronto, mentioned, “We’re sick and bored with feeling this manner.”

A number of hours later in Edmonton, McDavid, taking part in in as possessed a way as he ever has, was placing his workforce on his again. He leads all skaters within the playoffs with 14 factors.

In distinction to the low-talking Leafs, Leon Draisaitl was ebullient speaking about his teammate McDavid. “He’s the most effective participant on this planet,” mentioned Draisaitl, whose 55 objectives had been second to Matthews. “He confirmed that within the final two video games. It’s not ability. I imply, there’s a lot of ability clearly with him, that’s a given. It’s the need. You’ll be able to see it in his eyes. You’ll be able to really feel it each shift that he’s on the market. He’s decided. There was simply no means that he, or us, had been going to be denied. He led the way in which. He was superb.”

The Leafs did not get a efficiency worthy of the Sport 7 stage from Matthews or any of their different stars Saturday. Over the previous 18 years, failing early within the playoffs or lacking them altogether has change into predictable.

The collapses are quite a few, and it’s troublesome to choose the worst, however two storm to thoughts. In 2013, the Leafs led the Bruins, 4-1, within the third interval of Sport 7 earlier than surrendering three regulation objectives — two within the final minute — and conceding a Patrice Bergeron aim in extra time. Final season, the Leafs coughed up their three-games-to-one lead over the Montreal Canadiens and misplaced a Sport 7 on residence ice, and the Canadiens went on to the Stanley Cup finals.

Dropping this yr to the Lightning, winners of the final two championships, softened the end result for Leafs Coach Sheldon Keefe.

“This one is hard as a result of I actually really feel we’re so much nearer than it seems,” Keefe mentioned.

As years go by, the bands on the Stanley Cup that every listing a dozen groups are eliminated for show within the Hockey Corridor of Fame in Toronto to make room for brand new champions. The following band can be eliminated in 2031, sending the winners from the 1965-66 to 1977-78 seasons completely to the Corridor. If the Leafs don’t win by then, they are going to be gone.

Don’t really feel too dangerous for Toronto. Hockey has at all times been its coronary heart, however the metropolis’s multicultural soul has felt intermittent pleasure since 1967 from different sports activities. The Toronto Raptors gained an N.B.A. title in 2019. Toronto F.C. gained an M.L.S. championship in 2017 (and made the finals in 2016 and 2019). It was some time in the past, however the Blue Jays gained World Collection titles in 1992 and 1993, and postseason hopes are legitimately excessive this season. Toronto can be tremendous even when the Maple Leafs won’t.

There are calls to explode the workforce and its close-knit cadre of well-paid stars. There are calls to “run it back.” Pay no thoughts. Look west, the place playoff hockey can be wild, guaranteeing that Canada has a workforce among the many last 4. And two for a minimum of the following week, and maybe longer. A Canadian workforce has not gained the Stanley Cup since Montreal did so in 1993. The Battle of Alberta begins in Calgary on Wednesday.

Darryl Sutter, the Flames’ coach and certainly one of six brothers to play within the N.H.L. and 4 to educate within the league, grew up in Viking, Alberta, inhabitants 1,083, and 85 miles southeast of Edmonton.

“Fairly fortunate that two Canadian groups are nonetheless taking part in, being from Alberta,” Sutter mentioned in his postgame information convention. “Fairly distinctive.”

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