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NHL: Canadian Stanley Cup hopes assessed

Can a Canadian team win the Stanley Cup for the first time since Montreal Canadiens were crowned champions in 1993? We take a look at their starts and assess the claims. 

Flames undefeated

The Calgary Flames (+1100 to win the Stanley Cup) appear the most likely Stanley Cup contender from Canada in 2022/23 after starting the season on fire. 

With wins over Colorado Avalanche (+475 for Stanley Cup), Edmonton Oilers (+1700) and Vegas Golden Knights (+1500), the Flames currently remain undefeated.

The start has been a welcome one for a team which underwent much change in the off-season with forwards Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau, plus defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, joining to replace top point scorers Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk.

The trio of incomings have begun well, with Stanley Cup Champion Kadri leading the team with four points (one goal, three assists) and Huberdeau and Weegar acquired from the Panthers in exchange for Tkachuk, each collecting three assists so far.

The Flames won the Pacific Division last season (50-21-11) and if the early going is anything to go by, appear well placed to deliver on their +150 odds to finish top of that section again and aim to better their second-round exit in the playoffs.

Pressure mounting for Leafs

In contrast to Stanley Cup optimism in Calgary, pressure is mounting in Toronto following a challenging beginning to the season.

The Leafs are +600 to end their 55-year wait for a Stanley Cup championship, and are 2-2-0 through four games which includes a shock defeat to the Arizona Coyotes who are +45000 to win the Stanley Cup and in the process of an aggressive re-build.

Not only have results been mixed, but General Manager Kyle Dubas' controversial decision to sign Matt Murray to replace Jack Campbell in the Leafs net has come under further scrutiny with the 28-year-old suffering yet another injury.

Criticised for rarely being available for the Ottawa Senators over the past two years, Murray hoped for better health in Toronto but just three days after making his debut has been ruled out for at least a month with a groin problem.

In his absence Ilya Samsonov, who was signed from Washington Capitals to partner Murray, will have the opportunity to prove himself as a starter, and Erik Kallgren will also see ice time.

25-year-old Samsonov has won both games that he has played so far with an excellent .926 save-percentage and 2.00 goals-against-average (GAA).

Coach Sheldon Keefe has shrugged off Murray's latest setback, maintaining hope that he will return to the health and form which saw him win back-to back Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and '17.

However, the 42-year-old has shown concern for the way his team have started the season and has openly challenged his top end players to up their game which they desperately need if they are to end their NHL record Stanley Cup drought.

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Oilers refusing to panic

After reaching the Western Conference Final last season, and seemingly upgrading their goaltending in Campbell from the Leafs, the Oilers came into the new season full of hope and expectation.

That optimism has been dampened, however after a 1-2-0 start and Campbell struggling with a .851 save-percentage and 5.98 GAA.

To make matters worse, the Oilers have only held a lead for just under five minutes in three games but led by Captain Connor McDavid insist there is no reason to panic.

He said: "This group knows how important starts are — not only to games, but to the season - and we haven't had our best for the first three. But I would expect our best is coming here."

McDavid led the NHL for points last season (123; 44 goals, 79 assists) and has four goals, two assists for six points in the three games so far.

Joining him on six points is Leon Draisaitl (one goal, five assists) and with their talent on the roster, the Oilers do right to back themselves to grow into the season and be contenders for the cup again.

Canucks winless

Of all Canadian teams, the Vancouver Canucks (+6000 to win the Stanley Cup) have faced the most challenging start to the season and must find answers quickly if they are to not repeat the mistakes of last season.

The Canucks are winless after four games and the first team in NHL history to give up four straight multi-goal leads to begin the season.

Labelled "mentally weak" by coach Bruce Boudreau, the Canucks have proven under his guidance that they can be a playoff contender.

After going 9-15-2 with now fired Travis Green at the helm last season, Vancouver improved to 32-15-10 record (74 points) following Boudreau's hiring which was the second-best record by points-percentage (.649) in the Pacific Division.

It wasn't enough to recover from the torrid start, though, and if the Canucks are going to have a chance to compete for the cup come season end, they must re-discover that second half form as a matter of urgency.

Mixed start for others

Under new coach Rick Bowness, the Winnipeg Jets (+8000 to win the Stanley Cup) have shown signs of recovery from a poor 2021/22 season (2-1-0), while the much-improved Ottawa Senators (+5500) have started in underwhelming fashion (1-2-0).

The least favoured Canadian team, Montreal Canadiens (+12500) have gone 2-2-0 and while it remains early in the season, none have stood out as having major cause for concern or indeed championship optimism.

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