The Drive For 45

35 games left, and once again the Avalanche will need to work some magic if they want to be playing hockey instead of golf after April 12th. I took today's standings and projected all the Western Conference teams out to 82 games. Here's how everyone projects:

  1. San Jose, 133 points
  2. Detroit, 121
  3. Calgary, 107
  4. Chicago, 106
  5. Phoenix, 91
  6. Edmonton, 91
  7. Vancouver, 87
  8. Minnesota, 87
  9. Dallas, 86
  10. Anaheim, 85
  11. Columbus, 85
  12. Colorado, 82
  13. Los Angeles, 80
  14. Nashville, 77
  15. St Louis, 75

Going into tonight's game, Colorado has 47 points. Figuring that at least a couple of teams will be likely to play better over the final stretch, the Avalanche probably need to be targeting 92 points to make everyone feel comfortable. That means they need 45 points in their final 35 games or, roughly, a record of 21-11-3.

In case you may be curious, the Avs record over their final 35 last year was 19-13-3 (41 points). The near-miracle finish of 2006? 20-11-4 (44 points). And in each of those seasons, the Avs already had 50+ points at this point of the season. In short: this won't be easy.

There are 4 tiebreakers used by the NHL. The first one (fewest games played) won't matter when the dust settles. The remaining three are, in order: Most wins, most points earned in games played against the tied club, total goal differential on the year. The Avs have just 1 overtime loss, so they actually should do well in the 2nd tiebreaker if things continue on the same track (they are tied for 7th in the West in wins with 23). In terms of head to head matchups:

Anaheim: We've only faced them once, and they beat us in regulation. We'll need to win at least 2 of the 3 remaining games against the Dorks to take the head to head tiebreaker. Their goal differential is -1 while ours is -9. That's doable.

Calgary: The Flames have the head to head tiebreaker against us no matter what happens the rest of the way.

Columbus: Ditto.

Chicago: We're 1-2 against the Blackhawks. We can even the season series up with a regulation win on March 8th, but even if we do that the 'Hawks have a +38 goal differential and there's no way we're making that up.

Dallas: We have the edge right now (3 points to 2). Three points in the remaining two games clinches the tiebreaker for us. The Stars goal differential is -12 as of today.

Detroit: Not that it matters, but we have a 4-1 point advantage on the Wings. A win or two OT losses guarantees the tiebreaker in the extremely unlikely event that we end up tied with them at the end of the year.

Edmonton: Those 2 1-goal regulation losses are killer. The Oilers have the edge right now, 5-4. The two remaining games against Edmonton (March 14th and 19th) might just be the key to our season. Edmonton is close to us in differential; they currently are -6.

LA: We've won the head to head tiebreaker against the Kings.

Minnesota: The Wild have a 4-2 point advantage. Much like Edmonton, our 3 remaining games against Minnesota (Feb 11, Mar 12, Mar 17) are critical.

Nashville: We've won the head to head tiebreaker.

Phoenix: No matter what happens in our remaining game, the Coyotes will have the tiebreaker against us.

San Jose: The good news is that we're only down 2-0 in points against the Sharks. The bad news is that we still have three games remaining against them.

St Louis: You laugh, but they are only 5 points behind us. We've split the first two games in regulation against the Blues, so each team has 2 points with 2 games remaining. The Blues are -16 in goal differential.

Vancouver: We have a 4-2 point advantage so far, but there's still 4 games left. Interestingly, all 4 games against the Canucks will be after the March 4th trade deadline.

 

There's your moderately depressing news for the day. One thing is clear: if the Avalanche are going to make the postseason, the push has to start now.

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