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Eight Games Remain, Everything On The Line

by Kyle Shohara / Colorado Avalanche
The Avs were back on familiar ice this morning, after a successful East Coast road trip saw them earn five out of a possible six points against Buffalo, New Jersey, and New York.

As of today, Monday, March 19, the Avs sit in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.  Through 74 games, Colorado has earned 83 points with a 39-30-5 record. 

"It's exciting.  We're happy about being in this position," said Avalanche defenseman Shane O'Brien, after this morning's practice.  "I don't think many people gave us much of a chance this year, but we've come together as a team.  We need to continue to win each and every night."

As you can see below, the Avs can fluctuate anywhere between seventh and 11th on a daily basis.  It was just yesterday that the Avs were sitting in seventh, but a late-game comeback (and eventual shootout win) by the Phoenix Coyotes bumped Colorado down to eighth. 

The Columbus Blue Jackets did the Avs a huge favor by grinding out a 2-1 shootout victory over the Flames on the second of back-to-backs, which makes tomorrow's game against the Flames that much more important to win in regulation.

What's working against the Avs at this stage of the season is games played - Colorado has played at least one more game than the teams its competing with (Dallas: 72, Phoenix: 73, San Jose: 71, Los Angeles: 72, and Calgary: 73).  However, the Avs are playing some of their best hockey of the season at the right time. 

How important are the last eight games for the Avs?  Four of the six teams that Colorado is battling rank in the top-nine in terms of their respective records over their last 10 games.

3) Chicago Blackhawks (88 points, 6th in the West): 7-2-1

4) Dallas Stars (83 points, 3rd in the West): 7-2-1

6) Los Angeles Kings (82 points, 10th in the West): 7-3-0

7) Calgary Flames (81 points, 11th in the West): 6-2-2

9) Colorado Avalanche (83 points, 8th in the West): 6-3-1

Only San Jose (4-3-3) and Phoenix (3-5-2) fall outside of the top-nine.

An important factor that will surely come into play at season's end is the tiebreaker.  If two or more teams are tied in points during the regular season (with the same amount of games played), the first tiebreaker will come down to regulation and overtime wins combined, also known as "ROW."  These exclude victories earned in the shootout.  Taking a look at the standings above, these wins can be found in the column directly to the right of the total points.  Colorado currently has 30 despite having 39 wins on the season (those other nine came in the shootout). 

Despite having played at least one more game than their competition at this point of the season, the Avs play Calgary twice (one home, one road), Phoenix once (road), and San Jose once (road).  There is no doubt that those are "must win" games in regulation, preferably. 

It all begins tomorrow night when the Avs host the Calgary Flames. 

"If you can take care of business in 60 minutes, that's what you want to do," O'Brien said, in reference to tomorrow's game against the Flames.  "The games are so tight now, that if we do go into overtime or the shootout, we feel comfortable getting that extra point.  We have a chance to go up four points on Calgary, so it's a big game for us."
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