Jared Bednar on Avalanche’s recent losses to playoff teams: “We’ve got to want it more than we want it right now.”

The Avs are officially inside of 20 regular-season games remaining, and their record still doesn’t completely show that they’re one of the NHL’s most talented teams.

They’re seven points back of the Central division lead with two games in hand — meaning three points back of Dallas in a best-case scenario.

There’s little to no concern among players in the Avalanche locker room or among hockey watchers in the general public that Colorado is a playoff team with Stanley Cup potential. Yet the Avalanche (35-22-6) are also only five points ahead of Calgary, the first team outside of the Western Conference playoffs.

More alarming than the playoff race itself at this point is what happens once Colorado gets there. The Avs’ recent stretch raised concerns, even with coach Jared Bednar, after four consecutive losses when facing teams in the playoff picture.

“It should bother all of us,” Bednar said bluntly after a 5-2 loss to the Kings on Thursday, questioning the consistency of his team’s motivation. “… We’ve got to want it more than we want it right now.”

Is it just the latest skid, or is Colorado’s year-long sample size worth flagging as a reason to fear the playoffs? It helps to break down the first 63 games by opponent tiers.

The sampling of Western Conference contenders is most important. Barring a completely unexpected surge from Calgary or Nashville, the eight playoff teams from the West seem close to locked in. Colorado’s seven suitors: Dallas, Minnesota, Winnipeg, Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle and Edmonton. Five games remain against that collection.

The Avs are 10-5-3 (.639) vs. those seven, and the record was a staggering 10-3-2 before the slump (losses to Dallas, Seattle and L.A.) that prompted Bednar’s comments Thursday. That’s an especially convincing record considering the Avalanche accomplished it while dealing with more injuries than almost any other team in the league. It shows that as inconsistent as this season has been, the weak West is very much within grasp.

But there’s the tier above Western Conference contenders — Eastern Conference juggernauts. They account for the NHL’s four best records and six of the top nine: Boston, Toronto, Carolina, New Jersey, Tampa and New York.

The Avalanche’s 3-6-2 record against those six is a more chilling sign of repeat potential, especially because most of those games were played before the East aggressively bulked up at the March 3 trade deadline. Two of Colorado’s three wins against this tier came in overtime or a shootout. One required a singularly heroic effort by Alexandar Georgiev, another by Pavel Francouz. Remove the Hurricanes, and the record here is 1-6-2.

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One matchup from this tier remains. And it’s the most harrowing litmus test remaining on the schedule, next Wednesday (5 p.m. MT) at the deadline-replenished Maple Leafs.

There are nine teams firmly out of the playoffs. There’s a case for more, but here are the nine who have truly stopped trying: Columbus, San Jose, Chicago, Anaheim, Arizona, Montreal, Philadelphia, Vancouver and St. Louis.

The Avs are weirdly shaky against those nine, a combined 10-7-0, but the good news is that nine of the last 19 regular-season games come from that bottom tier. Colorado gave a hint of what might be to come by smoking San Jose 6-0 on Wednesday. Again, making the postseason is of very little concern.

The six games against the two upper tiers are the ones worth watching closely.

“There’s another level of determination and passion that we can play with if we want to win against the good teams,” Bednar said.

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