Something marvelous may unfold April 4.
The Stanley Cup playoffs might unofficially begin on a Saturday afternoon at the Pepsi Center.
The St. Louis Blues, defending Cup champions, will close out the regular season against the Avalanche in Denver on April 4. And at the rate they’re going, this game could determine the Central Division champion and No. 1 Western Conference playoff seed.
The fifth and final regular-season meeting between the Blues and Avs won’t just be the rubber match, as both teams have won twice at home. It might determine which team would face the playoff-poised Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs — and which team opens against the conference’s eighth and final seed, which is wild card No. 2.
There is no easy opponent. Every playoff team could become Cup-worthy. But the Avs would surely prefer to open against a wild-card team of the likes of the Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets or Minnesota Wild.
They definitely would prefer not to open against the Blues or Stars in two scenarios that won’t happen if they win the division. They want the home-ice advantage matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 8.
The Blues entered Saturday’s game against Dallas with a division/conference-high 86 points — three ahead of the Avs (who had two games in hand) and six more than the Stars (one).
If Colorado finishes second or third behind division-winning St. Louis, it would probably open against Dallas — given the division’s current fourth-place team entered Saturday’s games a distant eight points behind the Stars.
Colorado, with 18 remaining games after Saturday’s tilt at Nashville, is in the regular-season stretch run as a playoff-positioning team. That hasn’t happened since 2014 when the Avs cruised to an 112-point season in Patrick Roy’s first as head coach. That team finished 52-22-4 before being upset by No. 7 Minnesota in a first-round series that went to overtime in Game 7.
The current Avs (38-18-7, 83 points before Saturday), despite still missing key forwards Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri and Matt Calvert through mid-March or longer, have 10 home games after Saturday, and just eight on the road. And that bodes well for a team that has started to play better at home and has been highly successful outside of the Denver.
The Avs had won seven straight on the road entering Saturday, tying a club record set in 1999 by a squad led by Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic, Adam Foote and Roy, to name a few.
By all accounts, healthy or not, the current Avs are on a positive path that could end up with a division/conference championship — if they beat the Blues on April 4.
Dreaded Wings. The Avalanche is next off to Michigan for its annual visit to Detroit, the NHL’s worst team. The Red Wings took a 15-47-4 record (34 points) into Saturday’s game at Ottawa.
With 15 games remaining Monday when they host the Avs, Detroit is in position to finish with the league’s fewest wins since Colorado had just 22 in 2016-17. Beginning Monday, the Red Wings will play 11 of their last 15 games against teams currently in playoff position.