Colorado Avalanche Must Beat Philadelphia to Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 14: Mikko Rantanen
DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 14: Mikko Rantanen /

The Colorado Avalanche must gain two points against the Philadelphia Flyers to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The Colorado Avalanche have been in a must-win situation for weeks now. Well, with just six games remaining in the regular season (three home, three away), Colorado has fallen out of the playoff bracket.

It’s do-or-die time.

How did Colorado get here? Well, on the negative side, they dropped a deuce at home against the LA Kings on March 22, the very team they were fighting for a playoff spot. They also lost their marbles in the face of an implacable Marc-Andre Fleury in Vegas.

On the positive side, they got here because of an epic 10-game winning streak back in late December through January. They got here because Nathan MacKinnon suddenly ascended into superstar status. And they got here because Semyon Varlamov continues to keep them in games they have no business being in.

We all know that, after their humiliating 48-point season last year, they exceeded expectations when they hit the 70-point mark because that’s already a tidy turnaround for a young team smack in the middle of a rebuild. The fact that they’re still in the playoff hunt late in March is just gravy.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m fond of gravy. I’m going to be proud of the Avs this year no matter what happens with their playoff hopes. But I want them to keep the playoff hopes alive.

And it starts tonight as the Avs host the Flyers.

How to Enjoy the Game

Game time: March 28, 8:00pm MT
TV Networks: Altitude TV (Avs feed), NBCSP+ (Flyers feed)
Radio: Altitude Radio (AM 950)

Note: Tonight marks the Hockey in Heels night for the Colorado Avalanche. Attendees who bought a ticket through the organizers get a ladie’s nigh package that includes a gift bag (with an Avs wine glass), food, drink, and a fashion show. They also get a meet and greet with a player — it’s usually an injured player, so I’m guessing Mark Barberio. However, don’t rule out consistent healthy scratch, Nail Yakupov.

Avalanche Lineup

More from Mile High Sticking

Please do not ice the 11 forwards, 7 defensemen lineup tonight. That may seem edgy and cool. However, there’s a reason the traditional ratio is 12 forwards, 6 defensemen — it’s more efficient and effective.

Coach Jared Bednar has favored the untraditional ratio a few times this year, most recently in the home and home series against the Vegas Golden Knights. It worked in the March 24 home game in that Colorado eeked out a win in the shootout. However, it was a failure in Colorado’s 4-1 loss in Vegas.

It’s also the kind of lineup Bednar iced against Philly last time. However, I really don’t like it. The untraditional ratio creates a rotation in the third defensive pairing that’s not necessary when you have a healthy defensive corps. And it means you’re either rotating three forward lines or playing Nathan MacKinnon until he pukes.

I get that the Avs are riding on MacKinnon’s coattails right now. However, as the team plays these all-important playoff-push games, it’s better to stick to the traditional lineup.

Rookie Scoring

Yes, Nathan MacKinnon is pulling the team along by virtue of his speed and skill. And I’m still firmly on the #MacKinnonForHart train. However, hockey is a team sport.

The Colorado Avalanche are the youngest team in the NHL. The team has nine rookies on the NHL roster right now:

Those nine players don’t play every night. However, there’s usually between four to six rookies on the roster every night.

The other night in Vegas, there were points in which the Avs were icing all rookies (except for the goalie) for an entire shift. That’s all well and good — if the rookies are producing.

The top three rookies are listed in order above. Kerfoot is the leader with 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists). J.T. Compher is next with 23 points (13 goals, 10 assists). Then Tyson Jost with 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists).

Here’s the unfortunate thing. In this playoff push, the Avalanche’s top rookies aren’t producing. Kerfoot had two goals in Chicago on March 20, but that’s it in the last 16 games. Compher has two goals in 22 games, both against the Wild. Jost hasn’t had a point in the last seven games.

You can’t expect rookies to carry the game. However, it would be nice if the rookie line — or any rookie — earned a point or two in this all-important playoff-contention game.

Next: Overview of Final 6 Avs Games

After tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Colorado Avalanche have one more home game before heading off on an all-important, three-game roadie in California.