Avalanche Playoff Bid Still Pending

By
Updated: January 30, 2014
Varlamov

According to sportsclubstats.com, the Colorado Avalanche have a 99.7 percent chance to make the playoffs. If that doesn’t seem like a sure thing, I don’t know what does. And after drafting rookie talent Nathan MacKinnon, and signing hall of fame goalie Patrick Roy to head coach, it almost adds destiny to the side of Colorado.

However, there are always caveats when it comes to the world of sports, and in this case most sports aficionados will preach that 99.7 percent means nothing until the Avalanche face-off in late April in game 1 of a best-of-seven series.

There are a couple of reasons for concern if you are an Avalanche fan.

First of all, the remaining 0.3 percent doesn’t seem so small if you consider that there still are 30 games left in the season, and only a 13-point gap between them and the ninth place Phoenix Coyotes. In the current shoot-out and possible three-point system, it doesn’t take much for a team to make a run.

Also, Colorado’s schedule becomes more difficult down the stretch run. During the last eight games of the season, Colorado will face six current playoff opponents, the last two being on the road against Anaheim and San Jose, who are a combined (40–4–5) on their respective home ices. With San Jose still in the thick of playoff positioning, and Anaheim pushing for eternal home ice, those last few games probably will have meaning for both teams, and we can assume it will be difficult to win even one from both games.

There is also the analysis of how Colorado plays. This year they have been a team that has featured a balanced scoring attack from an above average roster of forwards. Unbeknown to many, they have also benefitted from solid blue-line play, thanks to the emergence of Erik Johnson, and his veteran defensive partner, Jan Hejda.

But the secret of their success has the anchor, by which some say is their team MVP, goaltender Semyon Varlamov. “Varly” has a (26-9–5) record, and is considered to be a candidate for the Vezina trophy.

There are two sides to the Varlamov story. First, there is the shiny side, which includes his statistics and flash. There is also the side of why his heavy importance to this team is so bad.

Noted by many fans and analysts of opposing teams, the Avalanche win a large majority of their games, but do it on the saving grace of the heroics of Varly. It seems that in a good amount of games, Colorado is outplayed, giving up three more shots than they take themselves. According to espn.com, they also have the fifth best save percentage at .925, in the entire league of thirty.

How long can they keep winning (7-2-1 in their last 10 games) by relying on a hot goaltender? By using the theory behind PDO, we combine Colorado’s save and shooting percentage to 1024, with the league average at 1000, and ascertain that Colorado has been playing on supposed fortune more so than their skill.

But, we all know sports are never a level playing field, and Colorado could go on to win most of their games defying averages and throwing “regression to the mean” out of the window. That being noted, the Avalanche certainly could start to have their playoff lead slip by even a few average performances by Varly.

Still, almost everyone expects to see Colorado in the Western Conference’s final eight. Ninth place Phoenix is on pace for 92 points, while Colorado is projected well ahead for 112. And in order for Colorado to tie the projected ninth spot, they would only need to go (10-19-1) to finish the season. Barring a major breakdown, and an accompanying winning streak from Phoenix, Colorado will be in the playoffs for the first time since April 2010.

They just need to tighten some loose bolts, and they’re off to the races.

 

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