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For the first time since the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season, Canada will have four teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs when they begin on Saturday. However, while laying claim to 25 per cent of the field is nice, it is far from a guarantee that one of this country’s most cherished pieces of silverware will be returning to its spiritual home later this spring. The quartet will each have their own reasons why this year could be their year, but here’s a closer look at the Canadian contenders.

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Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates a goal against the Washington Capitals at Rogers Place in Edmonton, on March 13.Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

Edmonton Oilers

Arguably the most battle tested of Canada’s teams, the Oilers were a preseason favourite to go all the way, having reached the conference final two years ago.

This season was anything but plain sailing for Edmonton, though, with rookie head coach Kris Knoblauch replacing Jay Woodcroft in November after the team won just three of its first 13 games.

Led by captain Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers certainly rebounded after the switch, with the team stringing together a franchise-record 16-game win streak. The surge allowed the Oilers to become just the 20th team in NHL history to reach the postseason after being 10-or-more points back of a playoff position at some point in the year.

And while Mr. McDavid looks set to miss out on a fourth consecutive scoring title, Edmonton got a breakout season from Zach Hyman, who registered his first career 50-goal campaign.

Looking to win a first Stanley Cup since Mark Messier led the team to its fifth and most recent title in 1990, the Oilers are back in the postseason for the fifth successive season, having been eliminated by the eventual champion in each of the past two playoffs.

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Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews and Tampa Bay Lightning's Brandon Hagel, left, watch the play in Tampa, Fla. on April 17.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Opinion: Canada’s had 31 years of bad Stanley Cup karma. Now that could change

Toronto Maple Leafs

Aiming to build on last season’s breakthrough playoff series win – the team’s first in 19 years – the Leafs’ return to the postseason was never seriously in question. In truth, the only real question marks surrounded the identity of their first-round opponent, who would play in net, and how many goals Auston Matthews would finish with.

Just as in 2013, 2018, and 2019, Toronto will meet the Boston Bruins in the first round – a team it hasn’t beaten in the postseason since the 1959 semi-finals. And the Leafs’ record against its fellow Original Six team this year hasn’t been much better, either, with Boston winning all four meetings.

Ilya Samsonov, Joseph Woll, and Martin Jones all took turns in the starter’s net this season, with mixed results. It seems Mr. Samsonov – who was at one point demoted to the minor leagues to regain his confidence – will get the nod for Saturday’s Game 1.

And Mr. Matthews’s quest for 70 goals has overshadowed much of the team in the past few weeks. Though the American ultimately came up short, finishing with a franchise-record 69 goals in a single season, he now needs to show he can replicate that form in the playoffs if the Leafs are to end their NHL-record 57-year Stanley Cup drought.

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Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes celebrates his goal against the Vegas Golden Knights at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, on April 8.Bob Frid/Reuters

Vancouver Canucks

To say the Canucks exceeded expectations in their first full season under head coach Rick Tocchet would be a massive understatement. Back in the playoffs for the first time since 2020, Mr. Tocchet is now a front-runner for coach of the year after engineering one of the greatest turnarounds in franchise history.

Leading the way on the ice is superstar blueliner Quinn Hughes. Appointed team captain last September, the 24-year-old is a leading candidate for NHL defenceman of the year after becoming the 11th blueliner in league history to register at least 90 points in a season.

Mr. Hughes will lead Vancouver into a first-round series against the Nashville Predators, an opponent it beat in all three meetings this season, as it looks to win a first Stanley Cup in team history.

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Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck plays against the Vegas Golden Knights at Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg, on March 28.James Carey Lauder/Reuters

Winnipeg Jets

Since returning to Winnipeg in 2011, the Jets have advanced past the first round on just two occasions, and there is a serious roadblock this time around. Against the Colorado Avalanche, the 2022 Stanley Cup champions, the Jets will have home-ice advantage in their series, but that might be the only thing – on paper – that looks to be in their favour.

Good job that the games are played on ice.

Much like the Canucks, the Jets have outperformed expectations this season, registering just the second 100-point season since the team’s return to Manitoba. Leaning on franchise cornerstones Mark Scheifele and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck – the favourite to win the Vézina Trophy as the league’s top netminder – Winnipeg has loaded up its roster. The team added former Cup winners Tyler Toffoli and Laurent Brossoit, as well as veteran leaders including Sean Monahan, as it aims to make its first deep run since going to the conference final six years ago.

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