Welcome to the 17th edition of "Looking North," our weekly Friday dive into the all-Canadian division. This installment dates back to May 7.
The 2020-21 regular season is quickly wrapping up, and the North Division playoffs are set. The Toronto Maple Leafs will take on the Montreal Canadiens in Round 1, while the Edmonton Oilers will battle the Winnipeg Jets.
The Canadiens have played out their 56-game schedule, while the other three Canadian playoff teams have one contest remaining apiece. Each side still in action will look to stay healthy and round into proper form before the postseason north of the border gets started on May 19.
The Ottawa Senators closed out their campaign on a high note, downing the Maple Leafs in overtime to complete a highly encouraging season-ending run. Over a 20-game span dating back to April 1, Ottawa ranked 14th in the NHL with an 11-8-1 record and 24 points. Considering they had one win through the first month of the season, the Senators' recent showing is a moral victory for a club on the rise and its fans.
The Calgary Flames needed a miracle to sneak into the postseason and didn't get it. They've been out of action for most of the week and will finish the campaign with three meaningless games against the Vancouver Canucks while the league's U.S.-based teams begin the playoffs.
|Team||Points over last week|
|Edmonton Oilers||6 (3-0-0)|
|Ottawa Senators||4 (2-1-0)|
|Calgary Flames||4 (2-0-0)|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||3 (1-0-1)|
|Winnipeg Jets||3 (1-2-0)|
|Vancouver Canucks||2 (1-3-0)|
|Montreal Canadiens||2 (0-1-2)|
Forward: It's getting repetitive, but Connor McDavid. He had eight points in three games - the most among any NHL player this past week - and broke the 100-point barrier with ease.
Defense: Tyson Barrie registered three assists in three games while averaging over 21 minutes of ice time per night. The rejuvenated rearguard made the most of his one-year deal with the Oilers in the regular season, finishing atop the defenseman scoring race with 47 points.
Goalie: It was a pedestrian week for goalies in the North, but reigning Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck stood out among the pack, stopping 43 of 46 shots across two starts.
Again, it's McDavid. His chase for the century mark was must-watch television, and he delivered every single night. With one game remaining, McDavid has factored in on 58% of Edmonton's goals this season.
McDavid's 100th point was the talk of the league. He notched it in classic fashion, slinging a perfect seam pass to partner in crime Leon Draisaitl for a power-play marker:
No fans were allowed inside the arena for Tim Stutzle's first NHL hat trick, so the Senators faithful brought the celebration to their prized rookie. What a scene:
Blake Wheeler dominated the Canucks on Tuesday, posting a four-point night capped by this brilliant give-and-go goal. The Jets would surely welcome this as a sign of things to come from their captain heading into the playoffs:
Can a North Division team go all the way? Canada's Cup drought - which dates back to 1993 - is a prominent subplot each postseason; with two rounds of all-Canadian matchups and a guaranteed final-four spot for the top dog, this could be the best chance a Canadian contender will get for some time. That said, the spotlight on whoever reaches Round 3 will be even brighter than usual, and the pressure will be intense. Crossing the border and meeting American teams - teams with fans in the stands - for the first time this season also stands to be a significant disadvantage for whichever Canadian club advances the furthest.
There's nothing on the line in the North's remaining regular-season games, so we look ahead to the playoffs. McDavid and the Oilers take on the Jets on Wednesday, while the Maple Leafs and Canadiens face off in their first playoff series since 1979 on Thursday.