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So with what feels like an eternity off, it's time to start thinking about: Who do the Avs want to play in the first round. I think It's best to examine it on a case by case basis, starting with the most likely candidate, and ending with the least likely.

Most Likely
San Jose Sharks: Pros: I live in San Jose, and have already lined up potential playoff tix
Cons: Just about everything else. The Sharks are playing better than any team in the Western conference since the trade deadline, they have quietly pulled within 3 points of 1st place Detroit, and are a completely different team with Brian Campbell in the lineup. Joe Thornton has put together another quiet great season. they are my pick to win the cup.
Synopsis: The Avs actually match up well against the Sharks, and If I were a Sharks fan I would be hoping that Nashville makes a run, or Calgary falls to the #7 seed. The Avs would give the Sharks a run, but I think the Sharks are too strong. We don't want to face them in the first round.


Minnesota Wild: Pros: Of all the potential playoff teams, the Wild are the third worst in Goal Differential, sitting at a paltry +4. Only Calgary and Nashville are worse. The Forechecker, and the guys and gals at hockey analytics, have done a good job showing that there is a direct correlation between goal differential and win probability. Simply put, the goal differential indicates that the Wild aren't quite as good as their record indicates.
Cons: They have owned the Avs this season. For some reason, even though I don't feel threatened by them at all, they come in and pull out wins, and regulation wins, from the Avs all season. That alone is enough to put some fear in the Avs
Synopsis Even though the Avs have played better against the Sharks than Wild, I'd still rather play the Wild, however of the most likely Avs first round matchups neither are looking great.

Not probable, but it could happen

Calgary Pros: Pretty much everything. Tensions between these two teams have been boiling all season. The most hated player for the Avs and their fans right now is that whiny bitch-ass coward, Dion Phaneuf. a Playoff series could potentially ignite the next great avs rivalry, which the Avs really haven't had since the Blood Feud. Plus the Avs are 5-3 against them this season, and the Flames have the worst goal differential of any Western Playoff/potential playoff team (-2).
Cons: Iginla is a beast and if Kippursoff gets hot the Avs would be in trouble. Luckily he's been pedestrian this season.
Synopsis: This is one of the best series for the Avs.

Dallas Pros: A lot of pros here, the Avs absolutely own Marty Turco. They play well against the Stars in general, and the Stars are falling apart at the right time for the Avs.
Cons: It's not very likely. Dallas also has one of the best Goal Differentials at +33, meaning they are a very good team.
Synopsis: Let's see how they do in their back-to-backs vs Phoenix before we start thinking about them.

Detroit Pros: None.
Cons: Since the lockout they own us. They own us this season (shutting us out on 3 occasions). They have a goal differential of +69.
Synopsis: Unless the Wings just tank in this last week, a second round mathcup is more likely (if the Avs advance). Everyone wants to see this as a renewed rivalry, but a 2 vs 7 matchup isn't a rivalry maker. It's a mismatch usually. During the Blood Feud days Edmonton and Dallas faced each other in the playoffs 6 times in 7 years. The Oilers lost all but one of those series, and lost 4 in the first round. There's a reason they didn't develop a true rivalry, because Dallas was better than the Oil. Rivalrys are made in the second and third rounds, not the first. That's why Avs-Wings is much better suited for the second round.It's not that I'm scared of the Wings, it's that the Avs, and our fans, need to move on a little from the glory days. We need to develop new rivalries and new hatreds. Resigning Foote and Forsberg was a good way to get fans back on board but a Wings-Avs first round series would just keep those fans who are coming back pining for the good old days instead of moving into the now. It's time for stars like Stastny, Wolski and Finger to start working their way into the casual Avs fans lexicon. It just won't happen if names like Forsberg, Foote, Lidstrom, Hasek/Osgood, and Draper are being played up.

Anaheim Pros: The Avs match up very well against the Ducks. The Avs play very physical, with Finger, Foote, Sauer, Salei, Lappy and McLeod, but they don't take the penalties that the Ducks take. Anaheim leads the league in times SH, while the Av have been down a man the least. In fact, everyone out west probably wants the Avs to play the Ducks.
Cons: Any team that plays the Ducks, if they win, is going to be beat-up by round two. The Ducks are physical, and dirty, and a first round series with them is about survival.
Synopsis: An Avs Ducks series would be a great series, but if the Avs can pull it out a date with the Wings or Sharks (probably) would loom in the second round and they would be toast then.

Recap

So from above it should be evident, but here's a nice little summary of who I want the Avs to match up with from most wanted to least wanted:

Calgary
Dallas
Minnesota
Anaheim
San Jose
Detroit