With nearly two weeks left in its regular season, the Colorado Avalanche can't do anything about what has happened the last six months. The team can only control what is ahead of it, and that might just be the biggest game of the season against a division rival.
Colorado suffered a slight setback for a postseason bid on Thursday in a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, but the team can still control its own destiny.
The Minnesota Wild picked up a win against the Calgary Flames earlier in the night and moved three points ahead of the Avs for the last spot into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, but Colorado has a game in hand and currently owns the first tiebreaker in regulation and overtime wins.
A victory on Saturday afternoon at Pepsi Center against the Wild can put the Avs back in the driver's seat.
"That was a key game for us, but the good thing is we get a chance to play Minny on Saturday afternoon," said Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy following the loss to the Flyers. "We can get right back at it by playing [the Wild]. That's the good thing."
Colorado was playing a solid game against Philadelphia and grinded out two goals to take a 2-1 lead early in the third period, but the Flyers flipped the score in a blink of an eye.
Radko Gudas and Claude Giroux each tallied in a matter of 19 seconds, and all of the sudden the Avs were down 3-2 with 5:24 remaining. The Flyers added an empty-netter with five ticks left to seal the game.
"I thought we had a bunch of good scoring chances, and I felt like we had them on their heels," said Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog. "In the second and in the third, I think we let up a little too much and gave them too much room.
"We have to be a little more desperate, and I think that we gave this one to them, no doubt."
Losing third period leads and coming away with zero points in the midst of a playoff race has been a recent problem for the Avs. This isn't breaking news for the team, and the players are well aware of the issue.
The Avalanche have discussed their struggle to close out games plenty of times, but defenseman Erik Johnson said it's time for the club to start doing something about it.
"It's disheartening, for sure, but we just have to be better," Johnson said. "We can talk about it all we want, but we just have to do it. We've talked about it a ton, trust me, as a group. Is it our preparation? Is it the process? Is it just focus? We've talked about it a lot, about the leads and at the end of the day we just get a bit too passive. When we feel the other team pushing, feel the other team buzzing, we might get a bit too much on our heels. They buzz and something happens.
"Maybe those things do creep into the back of our head, that we have blown some leads, but at the end of the day we just have to go out there and do it. We can talk all we want about certain things and adjustments and mindsets and things like that, but at the end of the day you go out and execute, get the job done."
The Avs have continued to work on that part of their game, and both the players and coach Roy have been quick to point out that no two blown victories have been the same.
The team's next chance to show improvement in that area will be against the squad it's battling with for the playoffs.
"We can't feel sorry for ourselves," Roy said. "That's what we've been saying. That's what we've been talking about, one game at a time and not look too far ahead. We don't want to look at the big picture. Obviously, that game will turn [out] to be a huge one for us."
Minnesota has defeated Colorado three times already this season, but those previous games don't mean much when desperate teams square off. The anticipation for Saturday has been building for weeks now.
"I think we all knew that it was a huge game regardless what happened here tonight," said Johnson, referring to the matinee versus the Wild. "Obviously, we would be much happier going into that game back a point. There are a handful of games left in the season, and we're going to make the most of them and it starts Saturday."
The Avalanche is not out of postseason contention after Thursday's loss, and the team won't make or miss the playoffs depending on the outcome on Saturday.
Colorado has eight games remaining, and all it can do is try and win the next outing.
"We don't have any time to sit around and mope," Landeskog said. "We got to move on and get ready for Saturday."
BEAUCH BLOCKS HIS WAY TO THE RECORD BOOKS
Defenseman Francois Beauchemin blocked three shots against the Flyers to become the Avs' all-time leader for blocks in a single season. Beauchemin has blocked 239 shots, breaking the previous mark of 238 set by Brett Clark in 2008-09.
The 35-year-old leads the NHL this year in blocked shots, as he has 35 more than second-place Kris Russell of the Dallas Stars.
As a team, the Avalanche is also tops in the league in the statistical category as well. Colorado entered Thursday night with 1,251 blocked shots. The Calgary Flames were second with 1,206.
MORE POSTGAME NOTES
•The Avalanche and Flyers split the season series, with each team winning on the road.
•The Flyers posted their first victory in Denver since Dec. 27, 2002 (2-1 in OT), snapping a seven-game Avalanche home win streak in this series.
•The Avalanche’s PK unit went 2-for-2 tonight and has killed 34-of-35 penalties (97.1%) over the last 12 games.
•Mikkel Boedker has a four-game point streak (2g/3a) and has eight points (3g/5a) in 10 games with Colorado.
•Erik Johnson set a career high with nine shots-on-goal, the most by an Avalanche defenseman since Rob Blake had nine on March 12, 2004 at Phoenix.