One of the many areas the Avalanche have been inconsistent this year has been in the physicality department. Hits are a highly subjective stat, but it's all we've got. Even if it isn't a perfect stat, I think it can be an acceptable barometer of a team's level of effort on a given night (yeah, you know how this one's going to end up).
The Avs have 310 hits through 17 games (22nd in the NHL, but since they were 29th last year, I guess we can say they've improved). At any rate, their median hits per game is 17.
When reaching that number of hits, the Avs are 6-3, barely outscoring their opponents 26-25 (shootout goals not included). When under that number, the Avs are just 2-6 and are getting outscored 27-16. Simply put, when the Avalanche can be bothered to put in just an average level of effort, they will often be in a position to win. When they mail it in, they're going to lose.
Sadly, in 7 of their 8 games against the NW, the Avs have been under 17 hits. Colorado is averaging about 7 hits a game more against non-divisional teams than against the NW (21-14). Perhaps that's why the Avs are dead last in their division? I mean, why would you want to waste your best effort against your own division?