Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Playoff picture at the top of the stretch

A few things to note:

**While it may not be likely, it's certainly conceivable that Vancouver could catch Anaheim for the #2 seed. (Hard to believe that on December 15, the Canucks were 10-1/2 games behind the Ducks.) Calgary or Minnesota could obviously catch the Canucks, but are too far back of the Ducks, especially looking at the Ducks' schedule.

**The one "definite" we can see here is that the Central Division runner-up will be the #4 seed, and host the 4/5 series. The chances of DET or NSH being passed by both ANA and DAL or SJS seem remote.

**What is less definite is what happens with the 5/6/7/8 seeds. It's been sorta assumed, for months now, that 2nd/3rd place in the Northwest will end up 7th/8th in the conference. I'm not so sure.

Stipulating (not assuming) that Vancouver wins the NW, it's not hard to imagine San Jose or Dallas being passed by Calgary or Minnesota -- a 2 game spread isn't much. Stipulating that Calgary gets their ship together and takes the NW, it's even money that Vancouver nevertheless tops the Sharks or Stars. (Hey, anyone up for a Canucks/Flames first round matchup? Alert readers may recall that the four previous times this has happened, in '82, '89, '94, and '04, the winner has gone on to the Stanley Cup Finals).

**Back on the Flames, while it's agonizing to watch games like last night's (and that 7-15-7 road record is stomach-churning), I'm still pretty bullish on the team for the final quarter and the playoffs. Some of their middling 10-10 record over the last 20 has just got to be attributed to luck.

Of those 10 wins, 8 were by two or more goals (and that's excluding empty-netters). The 9th was over VAN, where the Canucks scored 6-on-5 late to make it close, and the 10th was the 3-2 win over ANA just before the All-Star break.

Of those 10 losses, 3 were in a shootout, 1 was in OT, 2 were by 1 goal, and 3 were by [1 Goal + EN Goal]. Only one (in DET) was a legit 2+ goal loss.

I'm not crying -- they are where they are -- but I will say it's unlikely that they'll go 2-9 in close games over the next 20.

The painful irony here? Bryan Murray had it backwards. The Flames are 16-4 in 3-goal games, and 8-16 in 1-goal games. Ottawa isn't the Calgary Flames of the East -- the Flames are now the Ottawa Senators of the West.


Hey, anyone up for a Canucks/Flames first round matchup?

That should really be for the Conference championship.

Hell, that would make a great Stanley Cup Final, if history is any indication.

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