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Flame-Outs Fail As Usual, Wild Clinch Division

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photo courtesy of A.J. Olmscheid/AP

Consistent with Calgary tradition, the Flames are slouching their way into the playoffs again.  In a game that could have ultimately meant a shot at the Northwest Division title, the Flame-Outs choked hard and lost to the Wild, giving Minnesota its very first regular season banner.  The highlight of the night was Brent Burns' beating of Dion Phadouche, who deserved every punch he took.  Phaneuf looked to have the fight won early on, but Burns got his arm free and landed a great series of right hands before tossing the baby to the ice.

Now, as long as Calgary loses their final game of the season, the Avs will secure second place in the division---which isn't that bad considering how mediocre most of their season was.  

Vancouver crapped the proverbial bed again, losing 2-1 to the Oilers, who were without key players including Ales Hemsky.  Great work, 'Nucks.  Enjoy the golf course.

Strangely, though, ESPN didn't seem to realize that the Canucks had been eliminated.  This morning on ESPN News, they ran a graphic listing "The Race For Eighth" in the Western Conference, and had Nashville, Calgary and Vancouver listed.  But the Canucks are three points behind eighth-place Nashville with only one game left to play, so they've obviously been eliminated.  Also, it wasn't until late this morning that ESPN.com finally added an "e" for eliminated to Vancouver's listing in the standings.  As of right now, they still haven't put an "x" next to Nashville or Calgary, who have both clinched playoff spots.  What's the confusion here?

While the playoff teams in the West have been decided, the final seeds have not. Depending on how the final games play out, the Avalanche could still finish fifth, sixth or seventh, and could face San Jose, Minnesota, Anaheim or even Dallas in the first round---though it's almost a given that Colorado will be playing the Sharks or Wild first.  Detroit will face either Calgary or Nashville.

While the final Avalanche game of the season (against the Wild on Sunday) won't be for the Northwest Division title, it will still be important.  And it may be a preview of an exciting first round matchup.

Let's get this show on the road already.

ADDENDUM: I have to admit that the Wild's customary, sticks-raised salute to their fans after each win is pretty admirable.  I think that organization, despite their obsession with boring trap hockey and their questionable uniform color scheme, is a classy operation.  Minnesota has one of the most diehard fan bases in the country (and they're not all douche bags like in Nashville or Madison Square Garden), and the return of NHL hockey to the Land of 10,000 Lakes has been an undeniable success.  I just thought I would compliment them all at least once before I start trashing them endlessly during the playoffs.