October 3rd, 2009. Game two of the Joe Sacco era. Still riding a high from the surprise opening-night pasting of the Sharks on Joe Sakic night, the Avalanche welcome the Vancouver Canucks to the Pepsi Center and prepared for the crash back down to earth. But Craig Anderson, making his 2nd start in an Avalanche unipron, turned aside all 35 shots - including 9 by Daniel Sedin - for the shut out win. Goal scorers that night: Paul Stastny, Wojtek Wolski and Darcy Tucker.
And that's the last time the Avalanche have beaten the Canucks in regulation. Vancouver is 10-0-2 against Colorado since then, including a 3-0 win earlier this year. Along the way, Vancouver has outscored the Avs 48-25. Ugh.
The Avalanche are riding a 3-game winning streak, turning their home stand frown into a home stand smile, thanks in large part to Radar O'Reilly and Semi Varly. A week ago, the Avs were as close to last (6 points) as they were to 8th. Now they sit just 2 points out of 8th and need to stay strong on this big road trip - one of the last NW Division road trips the Avs will ever take.
Yeah, cheap word-twisting there. It was announced last night what's been rumored for a while - the NHL is realigning into 4 conferences and the Avalanche will move into a western conference with Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, San Jose, Anaheim, LA and Phoenix (until the inevitable Coyotes' relocation). I, for one, am happy with the change (hey, at least they didn't cancel the fucking season again!). Part of the deal is that each team will play a home and away game against each non-conference opponent. I did some quick and dirty math based on the realignment map (props to Cassie McLellan from Raw Charge) and my rudimentary grasp of time zones (actually, this blog post).
Right now, the Avs play about 9 games in the Pacific time zone (3 vs Vancouver, 2 each against San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim). Assuming the Avalanche play 6 games each within their conference, that means the Pacific number will rise to 12. But, the flip side for me and my east coast pals is that there will be a lot more east coast games. By quick glance, there are 16 eastern time zone teams. Currently, Colorado plays half of them at home and half on the road, giving us 8 eastern time zone games. Now, there will be sixteen glorious games. That's welcome news to this sleep-deprived sucker.
And the best part? Divisional (er, conference) playoffs are back. I do not think I have the words in my arsenal to express just how happy I am with this change. I just detest the vanilla 1 through 8 seeding system in place now. I loved the old divisional playoff system and the rivalries they fostered and I'm thrilled that it is back. It was announced last night that the league would re-seed the final four teams, which would open the possibility of having 2 eastern teams in the finals. Someone must have realized that could also mean an all western final, so the league is now stepping back from that and will be studying re-seeding further before deciding.
Overall, though, I'm excited about seeing each team twice a year and, especially, for conference playoffs (not so excited about having to remember to call them conferences).
Oh, and if this new system were in place, the Avs would still be just 2 points out of the playoffs...but they'd be only 4 points behind the 1st-place Canucks. Either way you draw it up, a win would be really darn cool tonight, right?