The Avalanche are a point back of a playoff spot (which you knew). They're behind a bunch of teams with games in hand on them (which you also knew). Here's what it looks like.
|8. San Jose||73||18|
|9. Los Angeles||72||17|
Teams I'm considering Officially Counted In or Out at this point: Everyone Chicago and better (79 and greater), everyone Anaheim and worse (66 and less).
That certainly doesn't look good. Colorado is at the bottom of a logjam, and have played the most games. But there may be reason for hope that things aren't completely bleak. I'll give you a jump because this is long and full of tables. After that, the reasoning.
First up, this is what
(I think) Braxtan Busted Twigg or at least somebody whose name starts with a B has been doing in the comments on a daily basis. If teams continue at their current ten-game points pace, as lolunlikely as that is, here's what the West projects to:
|4. St. Louis||111|
|6. Chicago (via ROW tiebreaker)||97|
|8. Colorado (via ROW tiebreaker)||89|
|9. Los Angeles||89|
Yes. San Jose is playing that bad right now. They're currently on a 0.5 P/G pace at 2-7-1. Br00tal. They finish 5th in the PacificAndDallas Division at that rate and it's absolutely an unsustainable plummet. But by that same token, I don't think Phoenix continues their current pace (7-2-1, 1.5 P/G) either. Let's take a quick look at how consistent the teams in the playoffs race have been this season, comparing their season's pace to their pace in the new calendar year and their current last ten game pace.
|Pts/Game - season||Pts/Game - 2012||Pts/Game - Last 10|
Right now, at the 3/4 (4/5?) mark, consistency doesn't pay. But Phoenix will have a cold streak. (In fact, as I type this, they're down 0-2 to PIttsburgh after 2.) Those things happen. Dallas is likely to do the same. San Jose is not a worse team than Columbus or Montreal and will regress back up to the mean. At any rate, for the Avs to squeak in, one of those three teams needs to miss the postseason entirely, and my gut feeling is that it ain't the Sharks. As we'll see, they control their own destiny more than perhaps any other team. But first, something completely different.
I looked at the remaining schedules of these teams (including Chicago, minnesota, and Anaheim, because I started this a little bit ago) to see whether anyone has a significantly more difficult schedule up ahead. This next table presents a rough measure of how tough your remaining schedule is. It's the average of the Pts/Game paces of each team's remaining schedule. For example, if you have San Jose twice and Calgary once remaining on your schedule, the average P/G pace (last 10 games) would be (0.5+0.5+1.1)/3.
|Opponents' Pts/game (season)||Opponents Pts/game (2012)||Opponents' Pts/game (last 10)|
They aren't that separated because, frankly, these teams play each other a whole whole lot to close out the year and all have the same number of points. Especially the PacificAndDallas. One thing that does stick out to me, though, is Colorado has the worst remaining schedule, no matter how you slice it. Season points? Suckiest opposition, in fact averaging less than a loser point a game (unless you round just a little. but STFU NARRATIVES BRO). 2012 points? Suckiest opposition. L10 points? Suckiest opposition.
One last table and then we'll cut to some interpretation, speculation, and outright shenanigans. This one is especially important in terms of who needs the most help, versus who needs to just win, baby, win. "Relevant Games" refers to number of games remaining against other teams in the chart.
|Games Remaining||Relevant Games Remaining|
San Jose, you are in the driver's seat. Win your games and you're probably giving your team the double-boost of also goomba-stomping a competitor to a loss. LA, Colorado, you don't have that luxury.... or added pressure? Which way do you want to interpret that? Oh, interpret. Time for a header that announces we're getting into
The superficial conclusions we can draw from this are simple. Dallas and Phoenix are hot. San Jose is Manitoba cold. LA is steadily sinking. As maddeningly streaky as the other teams in the race have been, those streaks have averaged to a fairly consistent pace as the year has progressed. Colorado plays the weakest remaining schedule, with Calgary a close second; Dallas and San Jose play the toughest maybe but they're all relevant games, in San Jose's case, against teams that are hot during the early stages of a playoff push. Now the differences are admittedly small... but over ten games, 1.1 vs 1.2 amounts to a full point difference, and that might mean one team goes to the first round while the other goes to the first tee.
I think San Jose gets their Ducks in a row (lolgeddit) and turns that streak back up to the mean. Given their opponents, that means it's at the expense of due-to-cool-off Phoenix (1-2 to PItt late in the 3rd now), due-to-cool-off Dallas, and offensively-challenged LA to the tune of three. times. apiece. That's unreal. It's March and San Jose hasn't played 3 of its division rivals but half of the necessary times yet (and they also play Anaheim twice). If SJ even returns to their mean pace, they'll pot 13-15 points ezpz against playoff-race foes and have 88 points, with 7 other games to pick up the rest. 4 of those games are against Edmonton and Anaheim.
Also relevant: Phoenix and LA have owned the PacNDal to a combined record of 21-10-8. Sign that they'll dominate or less than sustainable? Especially for LA, my bet is on the latter.
Phoenix just finished losing in regulation. Effin right. My data are now slightly wrong, but effin right. Thanks Pens!
Colorado and Calgary play the easiest remaining schedules, and (to our benefit in particular because we suck in such games) against the least relevant competition. Sup tomorrow night's game? If the Avs can take advantage--and given the recent heating-up-at-the-right-time behavior of Semyon Varlamov, that's a very real possibility--it's a small chance, but I'm telling you there's a chance. Calgary, lolnope, I can't think you'll make it, my head would asplode.
The following should be considered the ravings of a madman with all the credibility of such. I have a tendency of saying things strongly, so, don't be fooled. I'm informedly guessing.
San Jose turns it around, as I've said before. LA falls out of contention. Your time beating the PacNDal is over because all you have left in terms of relevant games is games against San Jose, who will be heating up at the right time. Dallas will falter. Phoenix will falter some but still bore their way into 7th.
Best Case Scenarios for the Avs: I'm wrong and San Jose chokes all the way to an early tee time, or I'm right and Dallas trends back down.
Det, Van, Chi, Stl, Nsh, with Phoenix, Dallas/San Jose, and Colorado.
What I think is most likely to happen:
Van, Det, Stl, Nsh, Chi with Phoenix, San Jose, and Dallas, in that order (division winner notwithstanding). Avs miss it by that much, stuck fighting over nonexistent scraps with Calgary and LA.
Hey, I never said it was a good chance.
note: I posted this late so as to have the most accurate data without interfering with game talk tomorrow.