Colorado Avalanche: Previewing Friday’s Must-Win vs. Anaheim

Colorado Avalanche(Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Colorado Avalanche(Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images) /

It’s gotten to the point where the Colorado Avalanche are going to have to win out to make the NHL playoffs.

The stats are daunting.  The Colorado Avalanche sit at 72 points after an embarrassing 3-0 shutout at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes.  They are three points behind the Arizona Coyotes and five points behind the Dallas Stars for a Wild Card berth.

In their last 10 games, the Coyotes and Stars are 8-2 and 7-3, respectively.  The Avs are 5-4-1.  Even worse, the Minnesota Wild also sit between Colorado and a wild card spot.  The Wild are 6-2-2 over their last 10.

What all that means is that while the teams ahead of Colorado in the standings are rising, the Avs are stagnant, barely eclipsing .500.

Captain Gabriel Landeskog is out with an upper body injury, their lone deadline move for forward Derick Brassard wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the problems that have plagued the Avs all season.  Substandard production beyond the top line and defense that relies too heavily on goaltending are issues we’ve been talking about here since training camp.

Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who will turn 31 soon has been worked to the bone by an inconsistent Colorado blue line presence.  It’s hard to fault Varly for his statistical plummet, particularly considering that Philipp Grubauer has been free-falling right alongside him.

Erik Johnson looks like an injury-riddled career has finally taken a toll, he seems a step behind most of the time and he is the Avs biggest defensive name. Defensive mate Nikita Zadorov leads the blue crew with a +13 +/- rating for the season.  That’s for the whole season.  By comparison, Avs forward and points leader Mikko Rantanen is a +50.

The Avalanche have slid into a place where they are neither good at scoring goals, nor preventing them and it is really hard to understand.

Enter the Anaheim Ducks, a team whose playoff ship long ago sailed. At 65 points only the Los Angeles Kings have posted a worse total in the West.  They are a pedestrian 15-13-8 in Anaheim but they are coming off of a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators.

As with most contests, it will benefit Jared Bednar’s crew to come out with an intensity to set the tone for the game, grab a couple of goals and then grind out a victory.  That blueprint should be effective against the overmatched Ducks and every point is critical to Colorado from not until the end of the season.

Colorado needs to get points in each of their final 12 games to have a shot at the post season where we’ve seen that anything can happen.  Anaheim should provide a comparatively easy mark and a confidence boost for the young Avs.  If they can’t get this one, they don’t belong in the playoffs.