Friday, March 13, 2009

Death Watch Update: R.I.P. Avs, Coyotes

Western Conference teams have proven surprisingly resilient this season, but eventually someone had to fall out of the playoff race. Say goodbye to the Avs and Coyotes, who fought bravely until the trade deadline but finally gave in to harsh reality. It's obituary time...

Colorado was actually hanging around the playoff bubble for much of the season, outperforming expectations with a better-than-.500 record as of early February. But beginning with a loss to the cellar-dwelling Blues, they ripped off a brutal stretch of 3 wins in 13 games... all of the losses in regulation.

In fact, the Avs are a case study in the absurdity of the charity-point system. On one hand, they have an impressive 9-1 record in the shootout and have won an additional 2 games in OT -- racking up 11 "bonus" points for clutch victories. On the other hand, they have a paltry 1 point due to SO losses, by far the fewest in the league (in fact all other teams but the Devils have at least 5). In the Western Conference, 1 charity point will send you golfing in early April. At least the Avs can play spoiler: 13 of their final 14 games are against teams still in the playoff race.

Only a point ahead of the Avs are the woeful Coyotes, who were at one point the darlings of the league. After a home victory against Detroit on January 20th, Gretzky's squad was 24-19-5 and dreaming of home-ice in the first round of the playoffs.

Then the bottom fell out. Phoenix won only 1 of the next 10 games, abruptly falling out of the playoff race and finding themselves as sellers at the deadline. It's been eight games since they last scored more than 2 goals in a game, and losing Olli Jokinen didn't help in the scoring department. The Coyotes are now a loss away from the conference cellar, and it's difficult to imagine where the franchise will go from here.

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