It’s not often that the Lightning and Avalanche get together. As I mentioned in one my other game previews, that is going to be one really nice thing about re-alignment. We will get to see all these Western teams twice a year. Not only will it help to create rivalries, but it will really help spread the game across the United States. I can’t be the only one who is excited to see guys like Patrick Kane, the Sedins, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Joe Thornton and many others more often, can I? Next season is going to be a riot. As a Lightning fan, there isn’t much to do but dream of next season. That being said, there is a game going on today against the Colorado Avalanche of the Northwest Division.
The Back Story
The Colorado Avalanche are one of those teams that is just downright awful this season. When you look at the roster, you would think that the Avs would be a much better team. Does that seem at all familiar to anyone in the Lightning community? The Avs boast some nice pieces. The likes of Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Erik Johnson and Milan Hejduk are all very solid players. So, why is it that this team isn’t higher in the standings? Looking at those names, you’d think this team would be playoff bound.
Personally, I’m not a fan of Joe Sacco as the coach of that team. Watching the Avs, it’s like they don’t have an identity. Are they young and fast? Smart and structured? The team needs a coach to come in and bring an identity with him. Darryl Sutter promised Kings fans that he would give this team an identity and that’s exactly what the Avs need.
The biggest move the Avs made this offseason was the trade to acquire Semyon Varlamov from the Washington Capitals. Can everyone please spell out overpayment? O-V-E-R-P-A-Y-M-E-N-T. Giving up a potential top 5 pick this season and more was downright ridiculous. The thought behind the trade was nice and dandy, but after 3 months of the season we can pretty much call it a bust. On the other hand, J.S Giguere, the goaltender brought in to be that veteran back-up, is playing lights out hockey. He is really one of the only reasons that the Avalanche are even in the hunt for a playoff spot. Now, I’ve always liked Giguere. He is one of those guys who just comes across as very genuine and smart. His ability to make saves when the team needs him to is just uncanny.
When you look at the names listed above, it’s pretty surprising that Ryan O’Reilly is the leading scorer of this club. It really speaks to the lack of offense this team is getting from key sources. Now, I have my theories about what has happened down in Colorado. It pertains to the playoff run they made two seasons back. Nobody in the hockey world expected the Avs to do anything that year. They were fresh off drafting Matt Duchene and people thought it was going to be another re-build year. Instead, the team made the playoffs. To me, that really stunted the development of some of the younger players on that roster.
So, what’s the reason for this entire back story? I suppose it’s to emphasize that there are teams out there in bigger trouble than the Tampa Bay Lightning. Even more so, we have a great chance to win this game tomorrow. As I’ve said in my past few blogs, these pre-Christmas games are some of the most important games this season. This team is such a mess right now and I believe that the holiday games could really help turn it around. The Lightning website had a great quote from Marty St. Louis regarding this:
“We have to look at this as a must-win before Christmas. We've got an easier schedule after Christmas, being at home a bit more. It's never easy coming out here. But now we have a chance to win in Colorado and come back home 1-1. We just have to answer for this.” – Martin St. Louis, on the importance of winning Friday’s game against Colorado
I don’t even think that this game has as much to do with the schedule after Christmas as it does with the mentality heading into the new year. This team needs this win in order to have the right mindset in the quest for the playoffs. Way back at the start of December when I took a good look at the schedule, I told myself that the San Jose game was probably going to be a loss, but I knew that this game was VERY winnable.
The Avs defense is very weak (maybe not as weak as ours) and it should be the perfect game for Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis to go to work. With that said, the Avs do have some very talented forwards. I expect this to be a very high scoring game due to both teams being incredibly weak in the defensive zone. My prediction for the game is 5-4 for the Bolts. Call me crazy, but I think this is a win.
Enjoy the game and I’ll be back with my post-game analysis and thoughts later tonight or early tomorrow morning.
Thanks for reading.
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