The Colorado Avalanche have only 7 games remaining in the 2011-2012 campaign and the ever crucial push to the playoffs takes its drama to Phoenix tonight. The Avalanche are now in the driver’s seat as they sit in the coveted 7th spot in the West as four teams below them battle it out for one spot. The only way to keep their current position in the standings is to win tonight against the Doan-less Coyotes.
One thing that makes the game tonight just that much more attainable for Colorado is that Phoenix will be without Shane Doan for the next three games. Doan, who dons the “C” for Phoenix, got suspended a few days ago for his elbow to the head of Dallas Star Jamie Benn. Not only did his hit cause shockwaves in the game, but also his suspension could not come at a worse time for the Coyotes. Now Phoenix, in danger of missing the playoffs already, is without their captain for the most important stretch of the season.
With their sights set on moving up in the West, the Avalanche look to improve their standing by winning the majority of their remaining games. The Avs know that they sit in a precarious position with having the most games played and an uncanny 5-day break between games 80 and 81. This means that Colorado must accrue as many points as they can in the next five games. It is not going to be an easy task for Colorado because of those five games; four of them are away from the friendly confines of Pepsi Center.
The keys to victory tonight for Colorado are to apply offensive pressure early and often, throw the puck on net and support the goalie. The Avalanche have found a way to outscore their opponents lately and it is all thanks to forwards Gabriel Landeskog, Jamie McGinn and Steve Downie. These three guys have really amped up the tempo of the team and others have followed suit. Next is to throw the puck on net. This time of year, the only thing that counts is goals and it does not matter how cute or fancy they are. The Avs just need to throw the puck on net and look to pounce on the rebound. It is how they beat the Flames the other night and it is the only proven way to win in the playoffs. And finally Colorado needs to support the play of their goalie. Both net minders, Giguere and Varlamov, have exceeded expectations and are hitting their stride just in time for the playoffs. Stupid penalties and costly turnovers in the defensive zone must remain at a bare minimum in order to alleviate any undue stress to the goalies.
If Colorado does those three things tonight in the desert, then there will be much to celebrate about back in Denver. Without Doan, the Avs need to get creative and switch up some line combinations to capitalize on that weakness of the Coyotes. With Chicago winning last night, the Avs need to pick up two points tonight to keep pace with that all-important sixth place.
|Actual Points Before Tonight’s Games||Predicted Points After Tonight’s Games|
|7th||COL – 85||COL – 87|
|8th||LAK – 84||LAK – 84|
|9th||PHX – 84||PHX – 84|
|10th||SJS – 82||CGY – 84|
|11th||CGY – 82||SJS – 82|
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