The Vancouver Canucks and the Toronto Maple Leafs each punched a ticket to the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs on Saturday night. For the Canucks it was expected while for the Leafs it was a cause for celebration.
Vancouver did not look strong in clinching their postseason spot, coming off of a 5 game road trip (2-2-1) they seemed content to keep their opponents to the outside and do their attacking in transition and on the power play. They were outshot 35-15 by the desperate Detroit Red Wings, who are one-point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West; Detroit could miss postseason play for the first time in 21 years.
Alex Edler opened the scoring in the first on the PP but Detroit tied it in the last minute of the first on a Cody Emmerton tip-in. Max Lapierre won it in a shootout for Vancouver, with Cory Schneider, the game's first star, stopping Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Damien Brunner to cinch the win. Vancouver likely won't know who their first-round playoff opponent will be until the last day of the season. It will be the Canucks 6th consecutive appearance in the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs finally playoff bound
Toronto, meanwhile, depended on one guy to get them the win and propel them into their first playoff berth since the year before the lockout - the 2004-05 lockout, that is. Goalie James Reimer was outstanding, facing 50 shots and stopping all but one as the Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators, 4-1.
James Van Riemsdyk scored twice, Nazem Kadri got his 18th and Joffrey Lupul scored for the Leafs, with Jakob Silfverberg the only Senator to put a puck past Reimer. The Leafs, too, may not know who their first-round opponent is - their first first-round opponent in 8 years - until the regular season ends.
It seems fitting Reimer's performance was instrumental in the Leafs playoff clinching win as the 25-year-old has had to endure a season of rumors about a veteran goalie being brought in. It never happened and Reimer, and the Leafs, haven't looked back.
Canadian teams in NHL playoff hunt
Of the other Canadian teams in the NHL: the Montreal Canadiens, slumping and losing Saturday night, 5-1 to the Washington Capitals in the Bell Centre, have already clinched their spot in the postseason; the Senators are 7th in the East and battling for their playoff lives; the Winnipeg Jets are 9th in the East and battling to get into a playoff spot; Edmonton Oilers is 12th in the West and the Oilers are close to playoff elimination; the Calgary Flames are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
A Canadian team has not won the Stanley Cup since 1993 when Montreal beat the L.A. Kings in 5 games. Since then the Canucks went to the final twice, in 1994 and 2011, losing in 7 each time, Calgary lost in 7 in 2004, Edmonton lost in 7 in 2005 and Ottawa lost in 5 in 2007.