With only a handful of days remaining in the NHL season, there are still a number of scenarios that could see the Colorado Avalanche make the playoffs. Each of the three teams still in the hunt for the Western Conference Wildcard positions - Colorado, Los Angeles and St. Louis - have two games left to play.
The Los Angeles Kings have clinched a playoff birth, but the Avalanche can still leapfrog them for the first Wildcard position. I’ts not likely, but it could happen.
With all the permutations and scenarios that could still unfold, one thing remains true - if the Colorado Avalanche beat the St. Louis Blues in regulation Saturday night, the Avs are in the playoffs. Everything that happened before becomes moot.
But that’s not until Saturday, to let’s take a look at the scenarios that could unfold before then.
First let’s take a look at the standings.
Since they hold the tiebreaker (ROW; Regulation or Overtime Wins), the Kings finish no worse than the first Wildcard position if they record a single point in their last two games.
The St. Louis Blues are the real competition, so we will use them as the basis for the different scenarios.
By this point, we all know that the Avs host the Blues Saturday night in a game that would determine the outcome of the season. Before we get there, each team has some business to attend to.
The Avalanche are in San Jose to take on the Sharks tonight. Though they clinched their playoff spot a while ago, the Sharks still have a lot to play for. Sitting only a single point up on the Ducks, the Sharks don’t want to lose home-ice advantage in the first round, so they will be looking to lock that up with a win tonight.
After losing to the Blackhawks last night, the Blues have a rematch in Chicago tomorrow night.
If two or more clubs are tied in points during the regular season, the standing of the clubs is determined in the following order: The fewer number of games played (i.e., superior points percentage).The greater number of games won, excluding games won in the Shootout. This figure is reflected in the ROW column. The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs. If two clubs are tied, and have not played an equal number of home games against each other, points earned in the first game played in the city that had the extra game shall not be included. If more than two clubs are tied, the higher percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, and not including any “odd” games, shall be used to determine the standing. The greater differential between goals for and against for the entire regular season. NOTE: In standings a victory in a shootout counts as one goal for, while a shootout loss counts as one goal against.
If the Avalanche and Blues finish tied in the standings, and still have the same number of ROWs, the Blues win out because they hold the second tiebreaker.
Both teams win
With a win tonight, Colorado would move up to 95 points and 41 ROWs - a nice cushion on the Blues. That would be erased if the Blues were to do the same in Chicago tomorrow night. We’d be back at square one. The Avalanche would need a win Saturday night.
Avalanche win; Blues lose in regulation
This is the only scenario in which Saturday's game becomes meaningless. The Avalanche would have a three point lead with only one fame remaining. They’re in.
Avalanche win; Blues lose in OT/shootout
The Avs would extend their lead in the standings to two points. It would mean that St. Louis would have to win Saturday’s game in regulation in order to move on.
Avalanche win in regulation; Blues win in shootout
In this scenario, the lead remains one point, but the Avalanche would gain a ROW and hold the tiebreaker. If this happens, the Avs could lose the game Saturday in a shootout and still move on to the playoffs.
Avalanche win in a shootout; Blues in in regulation or overtime
Like above, the lead remains at one point, but the Avalanche can no longer lose in a shootout Saturday night.
Avalanche lose in regulation tonight; Any outcome for the Blues
If the Avalanche lose tonight, they still hold all the card. It doesn't matter what the Blues do tomorrow. Regardless of their place in the standings - the Avs could be up a point, tied, or down a point - a loss tonight means the Avs need a win in regulation Saturday to make the playoffs.
Avalanche lose in OT/shootout; Blues lose in regulation
In this case, the Avs don’t even need to beat the Blues in order to get in. The Avalanche would have a two point cushion, so as long as Saturday’s game goes into overtime, Colorado comes out ahead.
At the end of the day, all that Avalanche need to worry about is winning. Don’t tempt fate, don’t leave anything to outside forces. Win and you’re in. That’s really the only scenario that matters.