Playoff dream date

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

Admit it -- you've thought about it.

You've whispered it to a few friends, quietly discussed the probabilities and secretly wished for it to happen.

Maybe even dreamed about it.

While plenty of water, or blood, still has to pass under the bridge, the stars may just be aligned for a showdown western Canadian hockey fans would literally lose sleep over.

For those who've yet to match conference rankings and early results to come up with second-round matchups, it's becoming clearer that should the Calgary Flames manage to complete their comeback against the Chicago Blackhawks, their most likely opponent would be the Vancouver Canucks.

Replacing Edmonton long ago as the city and the team Calgarians hate the most, Vancouver is the type of opponent that could not only resurrect the Red Mile, but threaten to have it burned down if things went sideways.

For those having trouble following along, the eighth-ranked Anaheim Ducks are up 3-1 on the top-seeded San Jose Sharks, setting up a clash between the second-ranked Detroit Red Wings and the Ducks, should they complete the upset.

That would leave third-ranked Vancouver to play the winner of the Hawks/Flames classic.

Obviously, before we start rekindling old war stories involving Mike Vernon and Stan Smyl or Matthias Ohlund and Jarome Iginla, it would be wrong and disrespectful to ignore the fact there's a rather large (and loud) impediment in the Flames' way called the United Center, where they haven't won all year.

While the Flames may now have the momentum in the 2-2 series, it's the host Hawks who enter tonight's game in control of the best-of-three showdown based on home ice.

However, the reality is more than a few locals are salivating over the prospect of an epic bloodbath ripe with juicy storylines, history and hatred.

"The next one sets up to be a ding donger," Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean told the Sun of the possible Rocky Mountain Matchup.

"Who isn't salivating over that? It's just going to be a classic. Two world-class goalies; Keenan, well, just about the whole playoff is Keenan versus old teams; (Todd) Bertuzzi versus his old team... All of it would be fantastic."

Indeed the cowboy in Red Deer Ronnie, like many, has to catch himself every time he starts putting the cart before the horse.

"If that happens, it would really be a dandy," said MacLean, reminded also the Sharks aren't dead yet.

"Personally, I think Calgary has (Chicago) right where they want 'em."

While the excitement in MacLean's voice clearly stems from his passion as a hockey fan from western Canada, the broadcaster in him also cherishes the possibilities as it would shape up to be a ratings home run.

Having already attracted the fifth-largest audience in TSN playoff hockey history, the Flames on CBC next round against the only other remaining Canadian club would make American Idol's numbers look like, well, anything else on CBC.

Vancouver's sweep over the St. Louis Blues topped out at 1.6 million despite lacking any hint of sexiness.

Who knows how many more would watch when you add to the all-Canadian mix the fact both teams have had a hate-on for one another that was ratcheted up several notches in 2004 when an overtime win in Game 7 at GM Place kick-started the Flames' run to the Cup final.

Fuelled from there by schedule-makers who pitted the bitter rivals against one another eight times a year until this season, dare we suggest it may be the best rivalry in hockey these days?

Hockey fans everywhere but Chicago hope we'll soon find out.

Until then, let's keep it quiet.

Nobody wants to jinx anything, right?

ERIC.FRANCIS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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