With the Calgary Flames finally having an 'x' next to their name in the standings, along with the rest of the West, I can now finally focus a blog post solely on the Flames' playoff prospects.
The Flames were aided by another spoiler team tonight, as the Blackhawks defeated Nashville 3-1 to ensure that the Predators will finish in 8th and the Flames cannot finish lower than 7th. This avoids an exact repeat of last year's playoffs for the Flames, as instead of facing the Goliath of the Wings they will most likely face the similarly giant Sharks. Optimists will point to the fact that Calgary won the season series 3-1, but keep in mind that all of the Flames' wins were by one goal, two were won in overtime, and most importantly all the games were B.C., or Before Campbell arrived in San Jose at the trade deadline. When the Flames faced the Sharks, the Sharks were like the Flames with more talent when considering their consistency. After picking up Brian Campbell at the deadline, the Sharks caught fire and came less than 10 points from the Presidents' Trophy. I don't see this series being any different from the debacle against the Wings last year.
Fortunately, there is still one hope for the Flames - 6th place and a series against Minnesota. The Flames finish out their season in Vancouver Saturday night, and they can grab the 6th seed if they win this game and Colorado loses their final game on Sunday against Minnesota. (Incidentally, the Wild have a 5-2 season series advantage over Colorado and the Avs and Sharks tied their season series, although all games were played B.C.). I am not even going to remotely suggest that Minnesota would be an easy opponent, but the fact remains that the Flames won the season series 6-2 (5 out of those 6 games being won by one goal, albeit). Simply put, the Flames match up better statistically against the Wild than the Sharks. Yet again, though, the Flames can't get into 6th against the Wild on their own - they have to both win and rely, ironically, on their very potential first round opponent from Minnesota.
It will be interesting to see how tomorrow's game in Vancouver turns out. The Flames could decide that a first round series against Minnesota would be preferable to San Jose, and show up and play like a playoff team, or they could just mail it in like they did in last year's regular season finale in Colorado (after the Flames had clinched the 8th seed due to Colorado's loss the night before). No matter what happens over the weekend, though, it would be nice if nothing else if Jarome Iginla managed to finally get number 50 tomorrow.
Go Flames, and Go Wild (on Sunday only). I'll be back on Monday with my pre-playoff post.
(Sidenote: hey, I got through a whole post without a direct pessimistic comment...I'm sure RinkLighter will probably fix that in the comments though..)