Colorado Avalanche Roundtable: Making the Playoffs


With the Colorado Avalanche seemingly poised to make the playoffs, Mile High Sticking Writers discuss what this needs to look like for the team to succeed.

Last year this time, the Colorado Avalanche were out of the playoff picture. They were so far out of the playoff picture that all we were really focusing on here was what the team was going to do in the off-season and whether Tyson Jost would turn pro. (Spoiler alert: He did.)

This year, the Avs look like they’re making a legitimate playoff run. At the time of writing, the Avalanche were tied with the Los Angeles Kings for the final wild card spot and having to look to the second tie-breaker (goal differential — the Kings have an edge there.)

Until the Avalanche are mathematically eliminated or clinch a playoff berth, we’re sure to be spending a lot of time on the site writing about how Colorado can make the playoffs and marking how close they’re getting. Here are some of the posts we’ve already written:

To get a general consensus on what Mile High Sticking writers thought of the possibility, I threw the question down of what the team needs to do to make the playoffs.

I asked the question a couple days ago, so Tom Janz was using the information at hand:

“I’m going to answer this question by following Woody Paige’s frequent suggestion to look at the schedule.

As of Monday, 3/5, the LA Kings are in the second wild card spot with 77 points. They are on a pace for 96 points. The Avs have 76 points with 17 games remaining. To get to 97 points, the Avs need 21 points in 17 games, or roughly a record of 10-6-1. That is doable, even without Erik Johnson for the foreseeable future, though his return would surely help.

The Avs play 5 games against teams out of the playoff picture, including 3 against Chicago. If they take care of business in those games to the tune of a 4-1 record, it would force the team to go 6-5-1 in their remaining 12 games against playoff contenders. These games include 2 against Los Angeles, 2 against St. Louis, and 1 each against Minnesota, Anaheim, San Jose. Those 7 games are really where this team’s playoff fortunes will likely be decided.

It appears that there are 5 playoff spots available for 8 teams, including Colorado, with Nashville, Winnipeg, and Vegas already probably in. It would behoove the Avalanche to have a winning record in their 7 remaining games against STL, MIN, and the CA teams. These are also games where winning in regulation is of paramount importance. If they do that, more often than not, I feel like they will get in.

That’s a good breakdown of how to face opponents directly. The math is solid in determining how many points the Kings are on pace for — 96. The Avs are on pace for the same amount of points, so the NHL will have to start looking at those tie-breakers. The first is regulation-overtime wins — the teams are tied at 34.

Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche /

Colorado Avalanche

Ross Kleppe answered my question after the overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks:

“1) Win some games on the road – The Avs have been explosive at home, that top line is an unstoppable goal-scoring machine. It’s a little more challenging on the road, but that is to be expected when teams can roll out their best shut-down line against the Avs top line. The Avs must find a way to go at least .500 on the road. I don’t expect them to win all of them, that seems unattainable. It is still important they get points away from the Pepsi Center.

2) Secondary Scoring – This team isn’t exactly loaded with offensive depth. After MacKinnon’s line, the scoring drops off. Of course that is to be expected, but it is imperative players like Tyson Jost, Alexander Kerfoot and J.T. Compher pitch in with some goals. There will be nights when MacKinnon, Rantanen and Landeskog aren’t firing on all cylinders, and there needs to be secondary scoring.

3)Here’s a big one I thought of while typing the previous two points. Goaltending. Semyon Varlomov can’t get hurt and he has to play well every night. Without Erik Johnson in the line-up, the Avs will need Varly to be on his game. He can’t have an off night and he will probably end up having to steal a game or two. He’s only played in 39 games so far this season, so the Avs will need to ride him as much as possible.”

We have Bernier back as backup, but Varlamov has been our brick wall. We certainly need road wins as well as secondary scoring.

Pretty much every game preview post, I break down how the Avs can make the playoffs by the numbers. Essentially, they need a 70% win percentage at home and about a 50% points collection rate on the road.

In some ways, the push to the playoffs is almost more intense than the playoffs themselves. Teams are so desperate, and they have nothing to lose. Until you clinch a spot, the team gunning behind you can take that berth away from you.

So, I’m going to go a little farther into my mantra — the Colorado Avalanche must play a full 60 minutes every game. They can’t be coming out flat, letting teams off the ropes, or playing lackadaisical hockey. When the Avalanche play their game, they can be the equal of any team in the NHL.

So they need to play their game if they want to make the playoffs.

Next: Avalanche Must Find a Road Identity

GM Joe Sakic stated that he didn’t make any roster changes at the Trade Deadline because he wanted the current roster to see for themselves if they were a playoff team. Well, these last 16 games of the season are the Colorado Avalanche’s chance to answer that question. Their destiny is in their hands.