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The Arizona Coyotes’ possible path to the playoffs, explained

Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet, center top, looks on in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche, Friday, March 29, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Arizona Coyotes lost what was billed as their most important game since 2012 on Friday night when they fell 3-2 in the shootout to the Colorado Avalanche.

A win in regulation for Arizona would’ve allowed the Coyotes to control their destiny for the rest of the season and determine on their own whether they make the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

The good news: Arizona shut out the Wild on Sunday, and Colorado failed to earn two points in its next game, losing to the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in the shootout on Monday. Arizona now sits two points back of the Avalanche heading into Tuesday.

From here, the Coyotes and Avalanche will battle over their final three games apiece. Arizona owns the tiebreaker at the end of play on Monday, but Colorado could still eventually get it.

Here’s why: 

First tiebreaker — Games played: The first tiebreaker goes to whichever team has the fewer games played on the season (in other words, point percentage). But unless something crazy happens and one of these teams has a game canceled, the two teams will both finish with 82 games played on the season. Moving on.

Second tiebreaker — ROW: The next tiebreaker if two teams are tied in points in the standings is the two teams’ number of regulation and overtime wins, or ROW for short. This is the number of games a team won, excluding games won in the shootout. Arizona and Colorado are tied in ROW (34), thanks to the Avalanche’s loss in the shootout on Monday.

Third tiebreaker — Head-to-head points: If two teams are tied in points, games played and ROW, the playoff team shall be the one which earned more points in the standings in games between the two tied teams, EXCLUDING the first home game in the season series for the team that had more home games than the other.

Here are the games between Colorado and Arizona this season:

Nov. 23 vs. COL — 5-1 L (does not count; see above)
Dec. 22 vs. COL — 6-4 W
March 29 at COL — 3-2 SO

The Coyotes own this tiebreaker. They earned two points in December and one more on Friday (three total). The Avalanche got zero points against Arizona in December and two on Friday (two total).

Fourth tiebreaker — Goal differential: The Avalanche’s goal differential on the season is plus-12, while Arizona’s is minus-9. Colorado owns this tiebreaker.

This is all somewhat complicated, but things would be much simpler if the Coyotes just way out-perform the Avalanche for the rest of the season. It will be difficult and take some good luck, though. Here are the remaining schedules for the two teams:

Colorado’s three remaining games: vs. EDM, vs. WPG, at SJS

Arizona’s three remaining games: vs. LAK, at VGK, vs. WPG

The Coyotes also have Minnesota behind them in the standings by three points.

Minnesota’s three remaining games: vs. WPG, vs. BOS, at DAL

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