The playoff fate of two Western Conference playoff contending teams could be decided within the final three games. Both the Arizona Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche are vying for the last available playoff birth.
Both Teams Fighting for Their Playoff Lives
It’s been a battle as to see which team has what it takes to qualify for the final Western Conference wild-card spot. The top wild-card spot has been pretty much decided towards the Dallas Stars who possess 89 points. They can clinch a playoff spot by getting a single point. Of course, any assistance from a Colorado or Arizona loss will advance that decision.
One team could decide the last wild card recipient. The Winnipeg Jets play the Colorado Avalanche on April 4th, and then end the season against the Arizona Coyotes on April 6th.
Things couldn’t get any closer between the Coyotes and Avalanche as to who has the advantage. Both teams have three games remaining, two at home and one on the road. Both play a team who has been eliminated from playoff contention. The Av’s host the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night while the Coyotes face the Los Angeles Kings.
Colorado Avalanche’s Destiny
The Colorado club must accrue five points in their remaining three games to get to the postseason. Since they have 86 points, the Coyotes cannot catch them even if they win all three of their remaining games. They have obtained seven points in their last five games, so they are riding the wave of success.
The Avalanche made sure of that with a 3-2 shootout win against the Coyotes last Friday night in Denver. They attempted to collect a much needed two points and had a 2-0 lead as the game winded down. But they relinquished a two-goal lead late in the game compliments of Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s two timely tallies.
Keys to their winning out will lie with their hot goalie Philipp Grubauer who has three wins and two overtime losses in his last five games. Then, there is Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog leading the forwards and always a danger to score. One factor to remember is Landeskog’s third-period success this season. He leads the NHL with 20 third period tallies. Needless to say, he is the Av’s go-to guy.
MacKinnon is another clutch player who has amazing speed along with playmaking and goal-scoring abilities. His 39 goals, 57 assists for 96 points in 79 games puts him in the upper echelon of NHL performers.
Arizona Coyotes’ Destiny
The oft-injured Coyotes have fought all season to be relevant and they may get oh-so-close to making the playoffs only to miss it by a small margin. The one advantage they hold is their recent home record. They are 10-1-1 in their last 12 home games and that goes a long way when you’re trying to win games at this juncture of the season.
The other factor for the Yotes is they have gotten good goaltending Darcy Kuemper. He has done a fine job of keeping his low-scoring team in games and giving them a chance to win. He has two straight shutouts in his last two home games.
As mentioned, even if the Coyotes are fortunate enough to win all their remaining games they need some help from teams playing the Avalanche to stand a chance at their first postseason appearance in seven seasons.
Their recent four-game road trip to the east coast may have determined their future when they were only able to muster two points in four games. Their offense just didn’t do the job for them even with Kuemper keeping them within striking distance.
What has done the job is their stingy defense ranked fifth in the league and some stellar goaltending.
All they can do now is defend and score enough and hope Kuemper brings them home.
Both Colorado and Arizona go into tonight’s crucial games with 34 regulation or overtime wins. The next tie-breaker is head-to-head completion. The two teams have played three games against each other. The first game is excluded because the teams have played an odd number of games. In the other two games, the Coyotes own three points and the Av’s just two.
Thus, the Arizona Coyotes could take the tie-breaker if it comes down to that. And, that’s definitive because the very last tie-breaker is goal differential and the Avalanche have that decidedly with a +12 to the Coyotes -11.
It’s difficult to believe that the entire season will come down to a few games to decide the Western Conference wild-card picture. That’s what happens when a team like Colorado has 13 overtime losses, and even if they had won a few of those games would be sitting in a playoff spot right now.
The same holds true for a Coyotes’ team who against all odds has made a run for the playoffs even with some injuries which surely held them down most of the season. Yet, they are close, and even if they don’t get to the postseason, they know what it will take next year to accomplish what they did this year shorthanded.