The NHL opines that the Colorado Avalanche have a “favorable” schedule for the remainder of the season. Do they, though?
The Colorado Avalanche might finally have something that can be considered a break. According to the NHL’s reckoning, the Avs have the most favorable schedule for the remainder of the season.
As of right now, the Avalanche have 33 games remaining. Of those games, 16 are at home and 17 are on the road. That’s not necessarily what makes the schedule favorable for Colorado. Rather, it’s the opponents they have coming up.
The NHL reckons the Avs have some relatively easy competition in the remaining weeks. There’s no such thing as a given, but according to the stats the NHL concocted Colorado’s upcoming opponents aren’t too difficult.
Colorado’s remaining opponents account for .527 percent of the points. If I understand that correctly, Colorado should be facing fewer playoff-bound teams than anyone else.
So, let’s look at some of the upcoming opponents.
The Colorado Avalanche have one more road than home game going into this final third of the season. However, they’re going to skew that figure right away with a five-game road trip that starts this Saturday.
This roadie, as have all of them this season, seems pretty rough. It takes them all the way to the East Coast for a game against Philadelphia after which they have two days off to get to Buffalo. After that game, they have just one day to clear customs for a game in Ottawa.
They have to clear customs again to drop down to Columbus for the first game of their umpteenth back-to-back series. (No really, it’s their ninth back-to-back series this season.) They finish up in Minnesota.
Those also represent some tough barns for the Avalanche. Here’s the record they’ve had in the last four years (when we’ve had the same basic core team):
- Philadelphia: 3-1
- Buffalo: 2-2
- Ottawa: 1-3
- Columbus: 1-2-1
- Minnesota: 3-6-1
Yikes. I knew Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota was a tough barn, but I think I blocked out how brutal it really is. Colorado has already played, and lost, there this season. They won on March 19, 2019 in Minnesota.
Hopefully Colorado comes out of this road trip at or above .500. It’s a tough one coming back from a 10-game absence when they had just enough time to get rusty.
Non-Playoff Bound Opponents
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So the NHL’s figures came not from the team’s individual ease or difficulty with their schedule but with the seeming strength of their opponents. Looking just at that road trip, four out of the five teams are, in fact, out of playoff contention at the moment. Columbus is currently in a wild card spot.
After that roadie, the Colorado Avalanche do have a five-game home stand, one that includes the Outdoor Game. Looking at that home stand, three of their five opponents are solid playoff contenders:
- Washington: #1 in the Metro with 73 points
- Tampa Bay: #2 in the Atlantic with 65 points
- New York Islanders: #3 in the Metro with 63 points
So, the Avs go from tough barns to tough opponents.
To finish out the month, the Avalanche have two Friday-Saturday back-to-back roadies. Granted, not a single team they’re playing is a strong playoff contender (the Hurricanes are in a wild card spot), but these are back-to-back series all on the road.
The Avalanche do host the Buffalo Sabres in the middle of those series, so hopefully they can pull a win there.
Just a cursory look at March and April (just two games, both at home) show a slight relief. They’ll have just one back-to-back left, against two teams highly unlikely to make the playoffs (San Jose and LA). Their opponents in general are, in fact, relatively easy from that perspective.
Well, there’s no such thing as an easy schedule in the NHL. On any given night, any team can pull out a victory. Even the 48-Point Colorado Avalanche won 22 times.
I think the next month for Colorado looks pretty challenging. If they can get through February above .500, they’ll be in good shape. That leaves them March, their favorite time to shine anyway, to put the pedal to the metal heading into the playoffs.
Actually, that’s ideal. As our captain of the blueline, Erik Johnson, said, you don’t want to peak too early. March is the perfect time to peak. And the schedule favors that.