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Screen Shots: Dream playoff matchups for each NHL team

There's still a possibility the legendary Bruins-Canadiens rivalry will be on display in this year's Eastern Conference final. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

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There's still a possibility the legendary Bruins-Canadiens rivalry will be on display in this year's Eastern Conference final. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

There’s still a chance Montreal and Boston will meet in the Eastern Conference final – and that would represent a dream for thousands of Bruins and Canadiens fans.

But what teams would provide the ideal conference and Cup final for each NHL franchise?

There’s no rhyme or reason to the answers. Some teams become the most bitter of rivals due to geography; others build mutual hate through previous playoff showdowns or divisional history. Let’s take a stab at identifying them in each of the 30 NHL markets:

Anaheim
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Los Angeles
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: New Jersey
Why? L.A. and Anaheim are close geographically – and the Ducks and Devils share a Cup final appearance in 2003, as well as a (tenuous) connection to Mickey Mouse.

Atlanta
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Washington
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Nashville
Why? The Thrashers don’t have a wealth of passionate playoff history, so we’re going the divisional route with the Caps and the Dirty South route with the Predators.

Boston
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Montreal
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Detroit
Why? There isn’t much that’s more tantalizing to Bruins fans than any series against a fellow Original Six franchise.

Buffalo
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Ottawa
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Dallas
Why? The Sabres have a nasty rivalry with the Leafs, but they’ve developed a more recent hatred for the Senators. And who in Buffalo wouldn’t want a second Cup final shot at those foot-in-the-crease artists from Dallas?

Calgary
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Edmonton
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Toronto
Why? The Battle of Alberta is alive and thriving; and you know Flames fans still crave revenge on Toronto for the Doug Gilmour – and now Dion Phaneuf – swindle-trades.

Carolina
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: New Jersey
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Edmonton
Why? The Canes have faced the Devils four times in the playoffs since 2001; they’ve also beat Edmonton in the 2006 Cup final.

Chicago
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Detroit
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: New York Rangers
Why? The Original Six factor trumps all other contenders.

Colorado
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Detroit
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Montreal
Why? A Canadiens/Avs series would appeal more to Quebecers than Coloradans, but true fans of the Avs’ history would understand completely.

Columbus
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Detroit
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Pittsburgh
Why? The Wings have been Columbus’ only playoff opponent; and Ohio’s NFL rivalries with Pennsylvania make the Pens a natural fit as an ideal Cup opponent.

Dallas
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Minnesota
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Buffalo
Why? The North Stars connection is a big factor here, as is the opportunity to show Buffalonians 1999 was no fluke.

Detroit
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Colorado
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Toronto
Why? Chicago is Detroit’s longstanding rival, but the playoff dogfights the Avs and Wings have had push Colorado to the top. Detroit’s Norris Division days with Toronto gives the Leafs the edge over the Habs.

Edmonton
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Calgary
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Toronto
Why? If they played the Leafs, Pat Quinn would be behind the Air Canada Centre visitor’s bench and Edmonton-born Phaneuf would be wearing Blue and White. Double-blasphemy!

Florida
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Tampa Bay
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Colorado
Why? There’s nothing like an intra-state rivalry to rile up Florida’s hockey community; the Avs swept the Panthers in Florida’s only Cup final appearance.

Los Angeles
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Anaheim
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Montreal
Why? With no lengthy history in the Cup final, the Kings would relish the chance to avenge their 1993 defeat at the hands of the Habs.

Minnesota
Ideal Conference Final Opponent:
Dallas
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: New York Rangers
Why? The Rangers get the nod because they employ Minnesota’s former franchise player (Marian Gaborik).

Montreal
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Toronto
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Detroit
Why? Beating the despised Leafs as well as the longtime rival Red Wings in a single post-season would make the entire Habs team that did it a shoo-in for sainthood in Montreal.

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Nashville
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Detroit
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Atlanta
Why? The Preds and Wings have a brief-but-bearish playoff relationship; Atlanta is just a four-hour drive from Nashville.

New Jersey
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: New York Rangers
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Colorado
Why? The Rangers are cross-river rivals; the Avs replaced the Devils in the hearts of Colorado hockey fans and handed New Jersey their sole Cup final loss. 

New York Islanders
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: New York Rangers
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Edmonton
Why? Rather self-explanatory, wouldn’t you say?

New York Rangers
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: New York Islanders
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Detroit
Why? One hopes the Isles and Blueshirts could meet again just to bring closure to the “Potvin Sucks!” chants. But who’s kidding who – Rangers fans are never letting that crap go.

Ottawa
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Toronto
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Vancouver
Why? The Leafs are obvious. But a meeting with Vancouver would be Round 2 in the battle that began in 1921 (when the Sens beat the Vancouver Millionaires for the Cup).

Philadelphia
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Pittsburgh
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Edmonton
Why? The Flyers would be quite pleased to turn the tables on the two Oilers teams that beat them in the late ‘80s.

Phoenix
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Detroit
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Buffalo
Why? Arizona has a lot of Wings fans, as well as Sabres supporters; that’s enough to make them the preferred opponents for this playoff-history-thin franchise.

Pittsburgh
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Philadelphia
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Detroit
Why? Because Penguins fans hate Flyers fans more than Heidi Montag hates the natural aging process. And because the Wings have been a solid Cup final rival for the Pens in each of the past two years.

San Jose
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Anaheim
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Boston
Why? The Sharks and Ducks have only faced off in one playoff series, but they’ve got a nice Pacific Division rivalry going. And wouldn’t it be ultra-gripping to see Joe Thornton take on his former team?

St. Louis
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Chicago
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Montreal
Why? The Blues and Hawks have loathed each other for decades; the Canadiens beat St. Louis in two of their three Cup final appearances.

Tampa Bay
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Florida
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Calgary
Why? The Flames brought out the best in the Bolts in 2004.

Toronto
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Montreal
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton
Why? Because everybody but the Leafs hates the Leafs. Especially in Canada. Especially outside of Toronto.

Vancouver
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Chicago
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: New York Rangers
Why? It’s tempting to pick Calgary or Edmonton as the Canucks’ chief conference rivals, but after the past two post-seasons, it has to be Chicago. And there’s little doubt the Canucks want a Cup final rematch with New York, 17 years after they lost to the them.

Washington
Ideal Conference Final Opponent: Pittsburgh
Ideal Cup Final Opponent: Detroit
Why? Crosby vs. Ovechkin. And Washington’s only Cup final series came against the Red Wings in 1998.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears regularly, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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