The Avalanche play the Columbus Blue Jackets for all of the marbles tonight. Well, Columbus is literally playing for nothing. They are the worst team in the league and will remain so until the calendar is reset in October. The Avalanche need the win to make the playoffs. If only it were just one game for the Avalanche.
The Avalanche must secure all four points to make the playoffs. Tonight’s game against Columbus will unfortunately be harder for the Avs than it may appear. The Blue Jackets shut them out on March first in Denver in a game where they looked happy to just passively skate around the ice. Also going against the Avalanche is that they have won just one of their last five games and secured only three points in those games. There is no margin for error.
If the Avalanche win tonight, they need San Jose to lose. If San Jose losses both of their last two games against the Kings without picking up overtime points, the Avalanche could tie the Sharks for eighth place in the west with ninety four points. The Avs hold the tiebreaker. The Kings need to win tonight to secure the western division title. Additionally the Kings would love nothing more than to keep their rival, the Sharks, out of the playoffs.
The Avalanche still have to worry about the Dallas Stars as well as the Sharks. The Stars have 89 points and the tiebreaker against the Avalanche. For the Avs to make the playoffs, the Stars can only get two points in their final two games. They play at Nashville tonight and play the number one team in the west, the St. Louis Blues, on Saturday.
If all goes according to plan, the Avalanche would make the playoffs with a win on Saturday over the Nashville Predators. The Avs could sneak by with overtime wins in both games. That may be too much for the Pepsi Center crowd to take. For a fan base that has seen their team slowly dying all week, a chance to fight back with their first game in six days is a breath of fresh air. If nothing else, these could be Avs Captain Milan Hejduk’s last games in the NHL and the crowd will get two more chances to cheer for him.