The Colorado Avalanche officially clinched a playoff spot last night with its 4-3 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks at General Motors Place.
The Avs will be heading back to the postseason for the 12th time in 14 seasons since 1995-96. Only Detroit (14) and New Jersey (13) have made more trips to the Stanley Cup Playoffs during this time. Philadelphia is on the verge of making it 13 this year, while Ottawa has tied Colorado with its 12th playoff berth.
Colorado’s first round matchup will be its 29th playoff series since relocating from Quebec, second to only the Detroit Red Wings (36 including this year). The Avs are 19-9 in those postseason series, the second most wins behind only Detroit (26-9).
The Avalanche has advanced to the postseason just one year after finishing last in the Western Conference with 69 points in 2008-09. Since the NHL expanded to 30 teams in 2000-01, the Avs are the first Western Conference team to make the playoffs after finishing last in the conference the previous year.
The most recent Eastern team to accomplish the feat was the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007-08. The Flyers finished 15th in the East with 56 points in 2006-07 and rebounded to finish sixth with 95 points in 2007-08. You have to go back to the 1997-98 San Jose Sharks to find the last Western Conference team to finish last in the conference and then make the playoffs the next year. The Sharks finished 13th out of 13 teams with 62 points in 1996-97 before grabbing the eighth and final playoff spot with 78 points the following year.
“Last summer we said that we wanted to regain our identity and bring this franchise back to where it belongs,” said Avalanche General Manager Greg Sherman. “Reaching the playoffs is another step in that direction. With 93 points after 79 games in this conference, the credit goes to our players and our coaching staff. We are happy to be where we are but not satisfied.”
The Avalanche has enjoyed the best turnaround of any team in the NHL. With three games left to play, the Avs have already gained 24 more points than last year’s squad (69 to 93). Phoenix has improved its point total by 23 from 79 to 102.
“This has certainly been one of the most exciting seasons I’ve been a part of as a member of the Avalanche,” said team captain Adam Foote. “This group of young guys have worked hard all year and brought energy to the rink every night. I’m proud of our team for what we’ve accomplished this season and look forward to giving it our best in the playoffs.”