Wednesday night at Pepsi Center, the Avalanche will play the St. Louis Blues in game number 41 of the 2015-16 campaign. The first half of the season was not always kind to the Avalanche; flip the calendar back to Nov. 1 and the Avs sat at 27th in the NHL. Despite a recent push (6-2-2 in their last 10 games), and improved play on the whole in the past 10 weeks, their 41 points leave the Avs four points behind division rival Nashville for the final Western Conference playoff berth.
Former Avalanche broadcaster Norm Jones joined Gil Whiteley on Mile High Sports AM 1340 to discuss the team’s recent uptick in play along with their playoff hopes. Even with strong play as of late, Jones cited better performance at home as a must if the Avs wish to play hockey this spring.
“Four of the next five games are at home,” Jones said, “that’s where they need to make their move.”
Indeed, their 12 victories away from home have the Avalanche tied for third in road wins, but their well-documented struggles at home have placed the Avs in a difficult position at the season’s mid-point.
Jones, while praising the recent play of goaltender Semyon Varlamov (2.30 GAA and .932 save percentage in the last 10 games) and the teams goal differential as a whole (34 goals for, 26 goals against in the same span), did not ignore the large hill they still have yet to climb in order to claim a playoff spot.
“They’ve got 42 games left, and they probably need to win 28 or 30 of those games to make the playoffs,” according to Jones. “That’s a lot of wins, but they are playing well right now.”
The Avs faced a similar challenge last season; the last spot in the West was claimed by Winnipeg with 99 points. Colorado finished two spots out with 90. One year prior, Dallas claimed the No. 8 slot with 91 points. But in the hyper-competitive West, it could take another 99-point effort again this season.
To reach that level, the Avs will have to not only continue their recent run, but do it over a span of half the season. As if it wasn’t tough enough, they will have to fend off numerous other teams in the conference to lock it down.
“Winnipeg is one point behind, Anaheim is coming on and their only 3 behind. Vancouver the same,” added Jones.
That has the Avalanche already in playoff mode. Wednesday’s opponent, St. Louis, has been a tough match up for the boys in burgundy, who are 6-8-1 against the Blues in their last 15 meetings. Two days later on Friday, the Avs could be putting the Predators in the cross hairs to draw even in points.
With improved play all around, it isn’t all doom and gloom on the ice. But Jones also admitted the road to the playoffs will not be easy.
“It really comes down to which team can go on a bit of a run, and hopefully the Avs can,” he said.
Check out the full discussion with Norm Jones in the podcast below…