If only this, if only that.
In the NHL, the difference between making and missing the playoffs can be extremely small.
Take the Colorado Avalanche. Two years ago, they won the Central Division thanks in large part to their NHL-best 28-4-8 record in one-goal games. The Avs were decent in games decided by two or more goals — they went 24-18 — but not great.
Last year, the Avs went 21-11-12 in one-goal games (16th) and finished last in the Central.
This year, they’re 5-7-1 (25th) and sit last again.
“I feel like right through the league there are not many teams that are powerhouses, and we look at ourselves and what we look at is our one-goal games,” veteran winger Jarome Iginla told NHL.com. “If we could pull out a few more here and there — I know that is what-ifs — but it makes it so we feel like we’re not so far behind a big group of teams.”
Iginla’s frustration is understandable. Colorado has 25 points and an overall goal differential of minus-4. St. Louis, meanwhile, has 34 points and an overall goal differential of plus-1. The Blues, not surprisingly, have been more successful in one-goal games (8-1-4).
The way Iginla sees it, the Avs just need to bear down when it counts.
“We’ve had too many this year that we’ve let slip away, too many of those types of games where you’re playing pretty well and then it just falls apart for us or we don’t get at least one point out of it,” he said.
He’s right about that. The Avs have lost two games in regulation that they’d led after two periods. They’re the only team that’s done that more than once. Sixteen teams have yet to do it at all.
Of course, in reality, the Avs’ biggest problem is not that they’ve struggled in one-goal games; it’s that they’ve not been good enough to dominate their opponents on a consistent basis.
In other words, it’s all well and good to bear down and win the close ones, but to cite an extreme example, the very best aim for this:
On the bright side, Colorado’s luck in one-goal games seems to be improving. Their last three wins have all been by that margin, including Monday’s 2-1 overtime decision over the Wild.
The Avs host Pittsburgh tomorrow (on NBCSN).