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Calder Countdown: The Final Countdown

Tucson’s playoff chances are brightened, but what do they need to do to make sure they get in?

Photo Courtesy of Tucson Roadrunners

As the American Hockey League season comes to a close, all eyes are on the upcoming Calder Cup Playoffs. Today, as things stand, the Tucson Roadrunners do not have a place in the post season.

Don’t be deterred yet, though. Tucson isn’t out of the conversation; and, in fact, is creating a conversation of their own. With a 5-2 win over the Colorado Eagles (Colorado Avalanche) on Saturday, the Roadrunners sit in fifth place in the Pacific Division, three points back from Colorado with two games in hand.

What’s Ahead?

Tucson has six games remaining against four opponents. Three of the four opponents are in playoff positions: Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild), Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers) and San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks). The other remaining opponent is a single game against the last place Ontario Reign (Los Angeles Kings).

It’s not the easiest road to the Calder Cup Playoffs — especially with four of their next six games being away from the TCC — but a couple wins could really tilt the scales in their favor.

As a brief scouting report on the final opponents: Iowa has lost five straight games, Bakersfield just dropped a game to the San Jose Barracuda (San Jose Sharks), Ontario is 3-5-1-1 in their last 10 games, and San Diego is 3-6-1-0 in their last 10 — including a 3 game regulation losing streak.

What about Colorado?

The Eagles have four games remaining in their season against two opponents: two games against the Chicago Wolves (Vegas Golden Knights) and two against the San Jose Barracuda

Chicago is the only team in the Central Division with a confirmed playoff spot and is 7-2-0-1 in their last 10 games. San Jose, meanwhile just took down Bakersfield on Saturday night and has won three straight games.

Anything else to note?

Yes, actually. With the San Diego Gulls losing in regulation to the Stockton Heat (Calgary Flames) on Saturday, Tucson also sits just three points back from the Gulls and just one game in hand.

San Diego faces San Jose and Ontario in the next couple weeks before capping their season off against none other than the Tucson Roadrunners. So if standings stay stagnant headed into that final series, Tucson could potentially claim a playoff spot with wins over San Diego — barring anything catastrophic.

So in what scenario does Tucson need to clinch a playoff berth?

Barring anything catastrophic, there are several scenario’s in which the Roadrunners find themselves back in a playoff spot.

Scenario 1 - Win Out: The first is very simple, Tucson wins all of their remaining six games to capture a total of 82 points. Each of the teams in Tucson’s way faces San Jose, so in any sub-scenario regarding the other teams’ games against the Barracuda, Tucson has a spot. Period. (That includes a possible but highly unlikely climb into second place)

Scenario 2 - Any team ahead loses out: There is a slight chance that any of the teams three above Tucson lose out. In that scenario, the Roadrunners would only need enough points to pass that respective team to win out (77 for San Jose, and 73 for both San Diego and Colorado). The latter two teams are more likely than the former; and, in that case Tucson only needs 4 points to get the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division (to avoid tie-breakers).

Such scenario happened only last year; so why not have history repeat itself, right San Jose and San Diego?

Scenario 3 - A Game of Splits: It’s hard to really predict how teams will perform down the stretch, but if each team played like they do and match up against their upcoming opponents like they normally do we can wage a guess on where Tucson might fall. So here’s my personal predicted outcome:

San Diego: 3-1-1 down the stretch = 80 points

Colorado: 1-2-1 down the stretch = 76 points

Tucson: 4-1-1 down the stretch = 79 points — Tucson over takes Colorado for the fourth and final playoff spot.

In a nutshell, Tucson needs to make up for their games in hand to Colorado and them some if they want to really push for a playoff spot. Anything sub-500 down the stretch (ie 3-3) likely won’t cut it. They’ll need a full effort on their front, not counting on the others to fall.

For in-depth Roadrunners coverage in the final stretch, follow Rob Leano on Twitter @RobLeano1