By Steffen Ploeger
Hockey is recognized as Canada's national sport, and enjoying an NHL regular season or playoff game with close friends on a Saturday night is one of the oldest pastimes in Canada. The upcoming playoffs are particularly exciting in Canada because of the number of Canadian teams that already qualified, or are still fighting for one of the final playoff spots.
There are seven Canadian teams within the NHL, and all seven possess some of the most loyal fan bases within the league. As the regular season winds down to its final few games, the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers are the only Canadian teams eliminated from the playoff hunt. For the first time in years, there could be as many as five hometown teams fighting for the oldest trophy in professional sports – the Stanley Cup.
As reported upon onlinecasino, three of Canada's teams already secured a place in the playoffs, the latest being the Toronto Maple Leafs. The qualification for Toronto breaks the longest playoff drought for the team in its entire history, dating back to before the previous lockout in 2004. Leafs Nation, perhaps the largest and most loyal hockey fan base in the entire world, has a reason to celebrate for the first time in nine years. But making the playoffs is only the first part of the battle, proving the team belongs there is the next and most important step.
The Vancouver Canucks and Montreal Canadiens are also guaranteed to move onto the playoffs. The Canucks were expected to move on, while the Canadiens, also known as the Habs, like the Leafs, are a surprise among fans and sports bettors. Depending on how Montreal finishes its final few games, the first round of the playoffs could be a classic Leafs-Habs matchup, renewing the oldest rivalry within the NHL.
The Ottawa Senators, provided they can win their final few games, should also hang onto their position within the playoffs. The Winnipeg Jets, meanwhile, are giving everything they've got to squeeze into the final playoff spot. The next few weeks will be a playoff round the likes that Canada hasn't seen in a long time – get ready for the playoff puck to drop.
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