I've made no secret of the fact that I grew up on the West Coast. Colorado was one of my favorite teams, so it'll probably come as no surprise that I've seen quite a few Avalanche games on TV. And I have to say that, of all of the games that I've seen played in Colorado, this Lightning team was the most affected by the elevation change that I have ever seen.
It comes down to poor ice time management. Part of that were the coaches, but part of that were also the players. They were taking regular length shifts for much of the game, and you can't do that in Denver - and that was a coaching issue. Icing the puck without thinking and not clearing their own zone - that was the player issue. And it cost them the game because they were too tired by the third to really keep the lead.
This was a very winnable game for the Lightning. They were playing fairly well, few penalties were being called, and they were getting some great offensive chances. Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Steve Downie played great together. In fact, they scored the only goal for the Lightning: Downie got the goal and Lecavalier and St. Louis the assists.
Despite not having played for three games, Antero Niittymaki looked very fresh and very on. The goal that he allowed by the Avs was more of a defensive breakdown than anything else. Which, again, came back to poor ice-time management - when you're tired you're not thinking as clearly as you perhaps should be. Even still, Niittymaki kept the team in the game, even in the third when Colorado had 18 shots for the period.
And why were Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone even in this game? They'd both left the previous game with injuries and were listed as day-to-day. What would it have hurt had they sat this game out? Especially Stamkos, whose injury was bad enough to warrant a trip to the x-ray machine.
Give them some time to heal before you put them back into the line of fire - even if they say they're okay. You can't trust an athlete to give you an honest answer if you ask them if they're okay after going down. I should know; I've been there. They all lie so they can play. All. Of. Them. Even if they can't walk, they'll tell you that they're alright. Seriously.
Overall, it was the altitude that did them in. Which I found interesting, especially considering that Rick Tocchet was an assistant coach in Colorado for a while. You would think that he would have been more careful because of that. As you would've thought that Alex Tanguay - a long-time member of the Avalanche - would've warned his teammates. And maybe they did, but circumstances got the better of them. It's hard to say.
The next game is Sunday, 13 December, at the Chicago Blackhawks. Game time is 7 pm Eastern.
Lightning vs Avalanche coverage [SB Nation]
Mile High Hockey [SB Nation Colorado Avalanche site]