The Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks both won last night, putting an end to an oddity of recent Avalanche history. With those wins, each team pulled 8 points ahead of the Avs. Since Colorado has just 3 games before the Christmas, the Avs have no chance of being in first place by the time Santa starts making his rounds.
In each of the last two years, the Avalanche struggled to start the season before pulling it together in December. In 2006 and 2007, the Avs were 14-7-1 between December 1st and December 25th and in both years pulled into 1st in the NW with a win on the final day before the Christmas break. This year, the Avs are 4-3-1 and have 3 winnable games remaining (Tampa, Florida and Phoenix).
And now for the bad news. After getting to 1st the last two years, the Avs have completely tanked it. They are 0-5-1 between the 25th and 31st. In 2006, after big wins over Edmonton and Chicago, the Avs' Christmas high was shattered with a 5-4 loss to Dallas and back-to-back losses to the lowly Blues. Last year, the Avalanche beat the Rangers in OT and then the Canucks to vault into first place. Once again, they came crashing back to earth with a 4-2 loss to Detroit (hey, at least they scored), a 3-1 drubbing by the Kings and a 4-3 shootout loss to the Coyotes in Phoenix (Peter Budaj's next-to-last game as a starter under Joel Quenneville).
This year, the Avalanche host Detroit on the 27th and the Predators on the 29th before returning to Phoenix for a New Year's Eve rematch. It's just like the last two years: one tough opponent and two beatable opponents. Hopefully, we can avoid the post-holiday hangover this year, since we won't be riding quite the same Christmas Day high this time around.