Pick your poison

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After last night's colossal pooping of hockey pants, a collective 'gulp' was heard round the Avalanche post season success party. Now, one game isn't enough to sway the brains here at MHH, but it is enough to make us kill kittens and have nightmares of that "game" replaying in our minds all last night.

So, what that tumultuous night's non-sleep resulted in is the following two part question in my head: First: Who do you, the adoring fans, PREDICT the AVS will face in the playoffs if they hold on and make it? And second: who would you WANT them to face?

We'll also take a look at the AVS record against potential playoffs match ups, as well as their final 16 "must win" games left on the schedule.  A new "Mission 16 W" is upon us.

This moment at the tail-end of the season, for me, feels eerily similar to a 2009-2010 Avalanche third period one-goal lead (and some overzealous Avalanche player is about to take an atrocious offensive zone penalty). The AVS are in the driver's seat and controlling their destiny, yet nobody feels or looks comfortable. The residents are falling back on their heels a bit, and a dark calm before the inevitable storm is creeping its bastard way into my happy thoughts.

Last night, Vancouver looked 100% comfortable playing from behind - the mark of a seasoned and confident team. The Avalanche however, looked like a deer frozen in Zamboni headlights. Running scared. Praying for an Overtime safety net to rescue them from drowning on ice. Yes it's just one game, but it is indicative of how the AVS have finished in "big" games for most of the season. To keep perspective, the AVS still sit firmly in 6th place in the West with a 3 point cushion over Nashville, and a 5 point lead over 8th place Calgary. All is not lost and I'm no Chicken Little, but the fact remains that this young AVS team has a lot more room to grow still, and a tower of tough games ahead of them.

Pundits have commented that the AVS only need to go .500 the rest of the season after the Olympic break to secure a playoff spot (and so far the AVS are obliging), but the bar has been raised my friends. This talented, over-achieving team and it's fans shouldn't be content with simply "over-achieving" anymore. While making the playoffs would still mark this a successful season and set things up for next year, I think it's fair to expect more because we've all seen the AVS DO more. If the AVS miss the playoffs, or make the playoffs and get swept in the first round, it is a failure at this point.

The AVS will rebound nicely from last night's collapse - or Sacco will have their heads and I'll cry myself into next October. Here's a look at the possible rough road ahead for playoff match ups (knock on wood):

 

SAN JOSE: Honestly, I wouldn't mind going up against the choke machine in San Jose. This season started against them and may be fitting to end against them. Bookends. Resolution. Satisfaction. Season series: 1-1 with 2 games remaining. Tie Breaker: San Jose will have more wins than the AVS, so it goes to SJ. But if by some miracle they are tied in wins, the AVS must win both of the remaining games, or win one and take the other to OT.

W

L

OT

RECORD VS

1

1

0

SCORES

5-2

1-3

 

Likeliness of 1st round match up: Somewhat Likely.

 

CHICAGO: This would be a fun match up to watch for any hockey fan. The AVS would be the huge underdogs, but the teams play a similar game and it would be up and down excitement. The three games they've played thus far against each other were all surprisingly close as they were ALL decided in shootouts. Season series: 1-0-2 with one game remaining. Tie Breaker: Hawks have more wins, so it goes to them unless the AVS can surpass the Hawks win totals, or match it AND win the final meeting in regulation.

W

L

OT

RECORD VS

1

0

2

SCORES

4-3 (SO)

 

3-4 (SO)

2-3 (SO)

Likeliness of 1st round match up: Likely.

 

VANCOUVER: Every now and then a team will just have the other team's number for a season. This is the case with the Canucks. Yuck. Season series: 1-4. One game remaining. Tie Breaker: as if. It's all Vancouver on this one unless the AVS can flat out win the NW.

W

L

OT

RECORD VS

1

4

0

SCORES

3-0

0-3

2-8

2-5

4-6

 

Likeliness of 1st round match up: Very Likely.

 

LOS ANGELES: The AVS have only played rolled over once against the Kings this year, so it's hard to give an edge to either side. The Kings are GOOD this year, but like the Avalanche, lack experience. The AVS face the Kings in their regular season finale. Season series 0-1. Games remaining: 3. Tie breaker: up for grabs.

W

L

OT

RECORD VS

0

1

0

SCORE

 

0-3

 

Likeliness of 1st round match up: Likely.

 

PHOENIX: This would be an intriguing match up as both these clubs have followed a similar trajectory this season. The AVS have played well against Phoenix and their star goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. The only blemish against the Yotes for the AVS is that still stinging Wolski winner with 22 seconds left. This would be a good match up for the Avalanche in the first round because both teams lack experience and so that would be thrown out of the equation. Season Series: 2-1. Games remaining: 1. Tie Breaker: if tied for wins, the AVS would simply have to get the next meeting to OT to win the tie break.

W

L

OT

RECORD VS

   2

1

0

SCORES

4-1

2-1

1-3

 

Likeliness of 1st round match up: Somewhat Likely.

 

For other teams to really get into the mix, the AVS would either need to take over the Northwest, or play well below .500 and these other teams play well above .500. Then they could have possible match ups with:

Nashville: Season series: 1-2-1. Zero games remaining. The AVS have trouble with Nashville. I don't want to see them in the first round.

Calgary: Season series: 4-0! All 3-2 wins, one a shootout. Man, it feels good to own this team this season. 2 games remaining. 

Detroit: Season Series: 2-2. Zero games remaining. All these games were close and it's hard to gauge a post season match up because Detroit is finally healthy again and could be poised to make a run sucks.

SO WHO DO YOU THINK THE AVALANCHE WILL FACE IN THE PLAYOFFS? WHO DO YOU WANT TO OUR BELOVED AVS TO PLAY??

 

Home Stretch: Final 16 games in bullet points

  • 8 home games, 8 road games remain.
  • 4 back-to-back sets remaining. 
  • No road trips greater than 2 games, and only one home stand over 2 games (3 games March 31 - April 4).
  • 5 of the Avalanche's last 7 games are at home.
  • 6 games against current non playoff teams: Florida, Anaheim (2), Stars, Blues and Oilers.
  • 10 games against current playoff contenders: Flames (2), Sharks (2), Kings (3), Coyotes, Canucks, and Blackhawks.
  • "0" the number of starts for Peter Budaj in final 16 games. With 4 back-to-back sets some with travel involved, that seems like a recipe for exhausting Andy, but Sacco is boss. My guess is Budaj starts against Edmonton, the last of the back-to-backs.

Summary: The AVS have one "easy" game left on the schedule: April 7 vs Edmonton. Everybody else will be hotly contesting for a playoff spot (Flames, Panthers, Blues, Stars, and Ducks), or jockeying for a final playoff position and home ice advantage (Sharks, Kings, Yotes, Nucks, Hawks). It's gonna be ugly hard fought hockey that will really test this team's mettle and hopefully prepare them for the post season. This team needs to learn how to win close, tough games in the third period. It's do or die time. I can't wait.

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