I held off on posting this, as the dogfight in the NW divison has made me, however, with a big come form behind victory tonight over Vancouver, the Flames would have to completely fall on their face, and get some help to miss the playoffs. Without further ado, here is my preferred order of opponents and why.
1. Win the division. Home ice advantage is the biggest reason, obviously. The Saddledome is loud and the Flames have almost always been a far better home team than road team. It took a while this season but since January have only lost twice in regulation on home ice. Plus they would likely play the NW division #2 providing Dallas doesn't continue their free fall.
2. Finish 6th. This loses home ice advantage, but damn near assures they will play the NW Divison champ. I would take my chances against any NW Divison rather than play any other Western Conference team with a realistic shot at the playoffs. In order of who I'd like to see most, it goes, Minnesota (Flames dominate them easily), Edmonton (still young, and may run out of gas should they make it), Vancouver (series could go either way, but Flames have more depth and scoring), Colorado (they have the Flames number, the refs seem to side witht he Avs, I know they don't really, and Sakic, save the last two games, lights the Flames up).
3. At this point 7th is almost assuredly San Jose. The Flames match up well against them and it will come down to intangibles. Thornton hasn't really done much in the playoffs, and San Jose always seems to be missing something on what should be an elite squad.
4. The only way I see the Flames facing Dallas is if they take the division and the free-falling Stars get passed by Minnesota (or Vancouver, but that seems less likely after tonight) and finishes 6th. Dallas, despite losing a lot lately, scares me. Turco beats the Flames in his sleep and the Stars can batton down the hatches with the best of them when they need to. Also, this would be the least entertaining of any possible match-up. See last year''s series against Vancouver for reference.
5. 8th and playing Detroit. I know the Wings made the Flames look silly last playoffs, and only the play of Kiprusoff saved the Flames any kind of face. I see a tougher, more veteran Flames team, even if they are incosistent, giving Detroit a better run this time around should it occur. The Wings still scare the bejesus out of me, since when they are on, it doesn't matter how hard you hit them, they find a way. However, it says here that Detroit will not even make the finals for the same reason as years past. They just aren't tough enough to enudre three Western Conference teams who know that they will eventually wear down when you pound them game in, game out.
6. Calagry does not match up well against Anaheim at all. That little prick Corey Perry (who I was a fan of when he played here in London) gets under the whole teams' skin. Getzlaf scores and creates chances like they are going out of style against the Flames. The Michelin man, oops I mean J.S. Giguere, is dam n near unbeatable against the Flames most nights, though when they do get to him, as they did two years ago, at least Bryzgalov isn't there to pick up the pieces. Chris Pronger is a complete douche, but he is one of the few d-men in the league who I could see shutting down Iginla for a series. If that happens, good night Irene. The should be MVP of the league carries the Flames.
I think that about covers it. Just so you know, I am not proof reading this so deal with it. I am on my 6th rye and Coke and it's 12:40....6:00am will come early.