If the Avalanche would have kept pace with the streaking Wild, Saturday’s 4-0 loss at the hands of Minnesota wouldn’t have stomped on Colorado’s playoff hopes. And what hope the Avalanche had for the post-season after dropping a huge game to the Wild got even bleaker with the announcement that Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon will be missing at least two more games with knee injuries.
Duchene, 25, has missed the past four games and MacKinnon, 20, has been sidelined for the past three which has left Colorado without their two leading scorers during the most important stretch of the season. Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said the status of his two star players would be updated over the weekend, and it was announced Sunday that neither Duchene nor MacKinnon would suit up for Colorado’s back-to-back road games against Nashville and St. Louis.
That means the earliest return date for Duchene and MacKinnon may be April 1 when they host the Washington Capitals, who have already clinched the Eastern Conference championship. Getting Duchene and MacKinnon back then may be too little, too late in Colorado’s chase for a post-season berth.
There are still several Avalanche players who can contribute with Duchene and MacKinnon on the shelf, but there’s not a single 20-goal scorer in Colorado outside of the Avalanche’s top-scoring duo. The lack of firepower was evident Saturday against Minnesota, and being shutout by the Wild may have been a sign of what fate lies ahead for the Avalanche.
A win Saturday would have put Colorado only three points back of Minnesota with one game in hand down the stretch. Instead, the Avalanche trail the Wild by five points for the second wild-card spot in the West. Not only that, Colorado has a much tougher schedule down the stretch, with all seven remaining games coming against post-season bound opponents. Their recent woes and tough schedule are reflected in their odds of making the playoffs, too. According to SportsClubStats.com, the Avalanche have seen their chances at making the playoffs drop to almost zero percent in the span of one week.
Following a 3-2 win over Edmonton on March 20, the chances of Colorado surpassing Minnesota for the last wild-card spot in the Western Conference was 50.1 percent. Following two straights losses, however, the Avalanche are listed at a mere 5.1 percent chance to earn the wild-card spot. It doesn’t help that Minnesota has started to string some wins together, either. The Wild have won each of their past five games, downing the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings over that span.
If coach Patrick Roy’s team is going to challenge for that final wild-card spot, they’ll need to start Monday on the road. But beating a Predators team that has been red hot in the second half isn’t going to be easy without Duchene and MacKinnon, and one more loss may be all it takes for the Avalanche to miss out on the playoffs.