Avs on playoff bubble at the All-Star break | PostIndependent.com

Avs on playoff bubble at the All-Star break

Sports Geek
Jeff Sauer
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Jeff Sauer

Long before Shaun White was nailing double corks and double McTwists in a superpipe, or freestyle points were being awarded for snowmobile jumps, the original extreme sport was being played on frozen ponds all across the world.

Hockey, of course.

While the Winter X Games were unfolding in Aspen this weekend, the NHL All-Star festivities also took place, and for puck-heads like me, time just flies too quickly when you’re busy watching football.

Here’s the scoop around the NHL with roughly 30 games to play for most teams, including a look at the Avs prospects going forward, as they presently sit on the proverbial “playoff bubble.”

The buzz around the league that quickly became a nonstory this year was realignment – or the realization that it wouldn’t happen.

In concept, the league-proposed plan was nothing more than an effort to reshuffle divisions geographically to reduce travel, and hopefully create some new rivalries along the way. But the plan also guaranteed that all teams would have played against every team outside of their conference twice a year, in a home and home series.

And that’s a bummer for fans hoping to drive down to the Pepsi Center to watch their favorite Eastern Conference teams play on an annual basis.

Gone are the prospects of watching Ovechkin, Crosby, Thomas, Stamkos and Giroux up close and personal, as the plan eventually fell through.

You can’t fault the players for turning down the offer – it was never a negotiation process – rather an “accept or decline” proposal from the league.

The Sidney Crosby story is not a good one to tell.

Sid the kid, the top player in the league according to many, might be done for the year, but hopefully not for good, due to post-concussion syndrome. He’s having the usual problems that have ended far too many careers – motion and balance issues – essentials for hockey players.

The Penguins should shut him down immediately for the rest of the year.

Major surprises thus far? How about the New York Rangers and the St. Louis Blues?

Busts: Montreal and Anaheim (I’m not including Tampa Bay because last year’s success was a fluke).

MVP contenders: Evgeni Malkin, Jonathon Toews, Henrik Sedin, Stamkos and Giroux.

Vezina Trophy goaltender candidates: Jimmy Howard and Pekka Rinne.

As usual, the cream always rises to the top during the regular portion of the season, and this year is no exception. (See Detroit, Vancouver, Washington, San Jose and Philly).

It becomes a completely different story come playoff time, when high seeds go down quicker than a homesick mole.

As for the Avs, they are what my wife kindly refers to me as when she takes me out in public: A crapshoot.

On any given night, they are capable of great things or sloppy play.

Recent history suggests they’ll probably need to win 20 of their final 31 games, for 94 points, to get into the playoffs. Chicago was the eighth seed last year at 97 points.

The Avs are going to need help to pull it off. First, they need to get Matt Duchene back soon (he hasn’t started skating since his knee injury a month ago). And second, they need their grinders to keep playing well in Duchene’s absence, and when he returns.

The team is full of grinders – Winnik, O’Reilly, McClement, Jones, and the comeback player of their season so far, TJ Galliardi.

I still don’t understand why he spent the last year and a half in limbo, often a fourth-liner or a healthy scratch.

Galliardi was the best player on the ice for the Avs when they had a shot at knocking San Jose out of the playoffs in 2010.

(Watch the way he skates with a tremendously low center of gravity, making it difficult for opponents to knock him off the puck.)

The other good news: Peter Mueller, one of the team’s few snipers, is healthy; Gabriel Landeskog has not hit the rookie wall, and JS Giguere is known as a big-time clutch goalie down the stretch.

So, we’ll see.

The Avs are not the best team in sports to call the Pepsi Center home at the moment.

But they can fix that with a nice little run toward the playoffs.

Jeff Sauer is a longtime western Colorado resident and former Roaring Fork Valley resident. He can be reached at soprisjeff@yahoo.com.

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