The Colorado Avalanche started the season like champions, suffered an unprecedented free-fall after the break but look to make the playoffs.
So, here it is, with three games to play, the Colorado Avalanche hold a two-point lead over the Arizona Coyotes for the final Wild Card spot.
With Friday’s win over Arizona (in a shootout) and Monday’s loss to St. Louis (in a shootout), the Avalanche have done enough to keep their tenuous hold on a playoff berth.
Just three weeks ago, we declared the Avs playoff hopes dead. One of those cases where we feel fortunate to have been so wrong. All season long, we’ve criticized Colorado’s top-heavy scoring and defense that relies too heavily on goaltending. The grind seems to have worn Semyon Varlamov down but Philipp Grubauer has picked the right time to surge. His performances of-late are as important to Colorado’s playoff life as anything.
Sure, the Avs are still too reliant on their goalie but at least Grubi is stepping-up.
Offensively, the Avalanche have seen production from all sorts of unexpected areas. Derick Brassard stretched the Avs to a 2-0 lead in Arizona before two third-period goals from the Coyotes forced OT and then the shootout.
The game saw the early return of Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog from a shoulder injury. Landy assisted (37) on Nathan MacKinnon‘s second-period goal (39). MacKinnon would strike again, securing the only goal in the rare goalie-battle shootout. Grubauer stopped all three Coyote players en route to the win and extension of the Avs wild-card lead.
It would be a pretty serious collapse if the Avs give up their position but we’ve seen a pretty substantial in-season collapse from them already.
Really what it boils down to is whether this is still the Avalanche team that was pushing for league supremacy at the All-Star break. If MacKinnon, Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen can produce the way they did in the early season and if Grubauer continues his stellar play in net, there’s no reason the Avs can’t make some noise in these playoffs.
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We shudder to think of the consequences if they don’t, with everyone from GM Joe Sakic to coach Jared Bednar set to fall under the microscope, considering this team has underperformed for now a third season. Like their NBA neighbors, the Avalanche have a blueprint to success that’s not complete. The Nuggets may be somewhat ahead of the Avs in their process but the build-from-within vibe is strong. As players like Erik Johnson age out of the Avs plans, they seem to have a deep bench of up-and-coming talent set to carry Colorado back to prominence.
It all starts with holding on to this playoff spot and putting the fight in said playoffs. The Avs growth needs a bit of a jump-start.