Avalanche Clinch Postseason Berth; Latest 2021 NHL Playoff Picture, Standings

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorApril 23, 2021

Colorado Avalanche's Nathan MacKinnon handles the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues Thursday, April 22, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

The Colorado Avalanche clinched a playoff berth for the fourth straight season after beating the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Thursday.

Avalanche left wing Andre Burakovsky scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner. Center Nathan MacKinnon, meanwhile, had three assists.

Here's how the latest playoff picture and standings shake out, along with a look at the playoff matchups if the season ended Thursday. 


West Division

1. Vegas Golden Knights: 68 points (33-11-2)

2. Colorado Avalanche: 66 points (31-9-4)

3. Minnesota Wild: 61 points (29-13-3)

4. Arizona Coyotes: 45 points (20-22-5)

Tentative first-round playoff matchups: No. 1 Vegas vs. No. 4 Arizona, No. 2 Colorado vs. No. 3 Minnesota


Central Division

1. Carolina Hurricanes: 67 points (31-10-5)

2. Florida Panthers: 65 points (30-13-5)

3. Tampa Bay Lightning: 64 points (31-14-2)

4. Nashville Predators: 52 points (25-21-2)

Tentative first-round playoff matchups: No. 1 Carolina vs. No. 4 Nashville, No. 2 Florida vs. No. 3 Tampa Bay


East Division

1. Washington Capitals: 64 points (30-13-4)

2. Pittsburgh Penguins: 63 points (30-14-3)

3. New York Islanders: 63 points (29-13-5)

4. Boston Bruins: 60 points (27-12-6)

Tentative first-round playoff matchups: No. 1 Washington vs. No. 4 Boston, No. 2 Pittsburgh vs. No. 3 New York


North Division

1. Toronto Maple Leafs: 63 points (29-13-5)

2. Winnipeg Jets: 57 points (27-16-3)

3. Edmonton Oilers: 56 points (27-16-2)

4. Montreal Canadiens: 49 points (20-15-9)

Tentative first-round playoff matchups: No. 1 Toronto vs. No. 4 Montreal, No. 2 Winnipeg vs. No. 3 Edmonton



This season's playoff format is unique, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the NHL to go to a more geography-based division structure and schedule.

The league has been split up into four divisions (West, Central, East, North) for a 56-game regular-season slate.

The top four teams in each division move on to the playoffs. Each division will have a four-team playoff to determine its champion, and then the four division winners will square off in the finals, which will be seeded based on regular-season points.

The Avalanche were never in serious danger of missing the playoffs in the top-heavy West Division, which has been controlled by the Vegas Golden Knights, Avs and Minnesota Wild all year. Those teams have 61 or more points, while the remainder of the division is at .500 or worse.

Colorado has designs on more than a playoff berth, though. The Avs would probably like to catch the NHL-leading Knights and take first in the West, which would mean avoiding the third-place Wild in the first round.

Doing so might be easier said than done, with the scorching-hot Golden Knights winning eight straight. However, the Avs have outscored their opponents by more goals per game than any other team in the league.

Second, the Avs would also like to make the Stanley Cup for the first time in 20 years, when they beat the New Jersey Devils for the trophy. Colorado has not made the Western Conference Final since 2001-02 but reached the second round in each of the past two years.

The Avs have the talent to get it done.

Seven players have scored 10 or more goals, with Mikko Rantanen leading the way with 26. However, Rantanen was added to the league's COVID-19 protocol absence list on Wednesday.

MacKinnon is the top point scorer with 56 (18 goals, 38 helpers).

Philipp Grubauer has been great in goal, posting a 2.00 GAA and .920 save percentage, but he's been in the league's COVID-19 protocol since April 14 and may be out through Wednesday at minimum.

No team has allowed fewer goals than the Avs, who have also posted the least regulation losses (nine). An excellent defense led by Cale Makar, Samuel Girard and Devon Toews helps the cause.