Colorado Avalanche: Potential Plan to Make the Playoffs

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 02: Erik Johnson
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 02: Erik Johnson /

The Colorado Avalanche could make the playoffs if they win strategically from here on out.

The Colorado Avalanche are in a tight, tough race to make the playoffs this season. It’s not impossible. And making the playoffs is never easy. However, it’s especially difficult this year.

The fact that the Avs are even in the playoff hunt late in February is something to celebrate in itself. This time last year, the team was one month past when their GM, Joe Sakic, had stated he knew they weren’t making the playoffs. This year, he’s a lot more confident — he kept the lineup together at the Trade Deadline to let them see for themselves if they’re a playoff team.

Western Conference Playoff Teams

Naturally, nothing has been decided yet. However, barring some epic free fall, it’s a pretty good bet that the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks will make the playoffs in the Western Conference. At the time of writing, the (hated) Minnesota Wild and the Anaheim Ducks were the third seeds for their divisions.

That leaves five teams realistically battling for two wild card spots — the Dallas Stars, LA Kings, Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche. At the time of writing, the Avs were two points out with one game in hand over three teams above them (St. Louis, Calgary, Los Angeles).

Playoff Race Math

The Colorado Avalanche face a tight, tough race. It’s probably going to take 95 points to win that last playoff berth — both Calgary and LA or on pace for that finish. Colorado is on pace for 94 points. They’re going to have to do just a little bit better if they want to try out some playoff games.

Colorado has 20 games left. Of those, 12 are at home. The Avs have a very impressive 69% win rate at home, meaning they should expect to win eight of those games. Can they win nine? Or even 10? That would be a big boost. Even just winning the one more gives them 16 points, putting them at 89 points without any road wins.

Colorado has a far less impressive road record — they’ve won 12 of 32 and have collected an additional four overtime loss points. That’s about a 42% points collection rate. That would give them seven points in their remaining eight road games. Can they improve that to even .500 hockey? That would give them eight points for a total of 97. That could just do it.

If the goal is 97 points, Colorado needs 26 more. That means they need 13 regulation wins, allowing them only seven more losses. They could get some of those points as overtime losses as long as it’s not against teams they’re fighting for a playoff berth.

Side note: In the Eastern Conference, Colorado’s 71 points would be good for the final playoff berth with a game in hand over the Columbus Blue Jackets, who hold the spot with 69 points.

Individual Match Ups

More from Mile High Sticking

Of the Avalanche’s 20 remaining games, only three are against Eastern Conference teams — the Blue Jackets, the Detroit Red Wings and the Philadelphia Flyers. While every game counts at this point, those are the three they could most afford to lose.

That means the lion’s share are high-stakes Western Conference games. Of those 17 games, nine are against Central Division rivals. They play the Predators twice — if they lose one of those games, it’s not the end of their hopes since they’re not catching Nashville anyway. Ditto the two games against the Knights.

Of the 17 Western Conference games, they have one game against the Arizona Coyotes and three against the Chicago Blackhawks. Neither of those teams is making the playoffs, and Colorado should use wins against them to bolster their points total. I’d love to see them take all four games, but I’ll allow them one loss.

Now, let’s look at the most important teams the Colorado Avalanche must beat. These are our six enemies moving forward:

  • St. Louis (2 games left)
  • Calgary (1 game left)
  • LA (2 games left)
  • Anaheim (1 game left)
  • Minnesota (2 games left)
  • San Jose Sharks (1 game left)

Each of those games is worth four points since San Jose, Anaheim or Minnesota could potentially drop enough to be fighting for a wild card spot. (Dallas isn’t in the mix because the Avs have already played out the series, winning 3-2).

That makes every single one of those nine games a playoff game. Depending on how the Colorado Avalanche do with the other match-ups mentioned in this section, they could potentially need to win all nine.

Making the Playoffs?

Making the playoffs will not be an easy task — it’s not meant to be. Can this team do it? Yes — they have the ability if Nathan MacKinnon stays hot, they get a little secondary scoring, and Semyon Varlamov keeps them in games.

Will they do it? That’s up to them. We’ve all seen them beat some of the NHL’s best teams only to play down to a bottom feeder — and lose. We’ve all seen them take entire periods or even half the game off. We’ve all seen them make so many mistakes in a game that they all but hand it to their opponent.

Next: Key Factors for Making the Playoffs

A little luck in the form of one St. Louis, Calgary, and LA having a little losing streak would be helpful. However, the Colorado Avalanche can take their destiny into their own hands if they find just a little bit more gas in the tank.

This is what we’ve wanted, Avs Nation. Some meaningful hockey coming down the stretch.