Loss: High Altitude
As an outsider, who has only visited the Denver area a handful of times, it is hard to truly gauge the effects of high altitude. Most visits for myself were as a child or non-strenuous activity.
The one time I somewhat noticed it was when a friend and I went on a hike in the mountains. You could tell the air was a little thinner overall.
Yet, I’ve always brushed it off affecting players too much. They’re pro athletes, in great shape.
The thinking was also if Denver was such a hard pace to play, why is the place not a fortress, almost unwinnable? However, the truth is that high altitude does affect players.
It’s not as though it makes it an unwinnable scenario, since both sides can make mistakes that cost them the game regardless of altitude. Yet, hearing stories of ex-players like Jamie Rivers, it makes more sense.
It’s not so hard to breathe in and of itself, but there simply is not enough oxygen to fill your lungs with each breath. So, you’re constantly trying to recover, making it feel like you’ve just got done with a shift on the ice even if you skipped one.
To me, coming so early in the season, this is more the reason the Blues might not win their first game of the year as opposed to the Avalanche doing something in particular. That is not to take away from the Avs either.
They’re Cup contenders for a reason. They have two of the best scorers in the entire NHL, a good defense and solid goaltending. All of that would make it difficult for the Blues to win anyway.
But with so little preparation time for St. Louis, having to play at high altitude is more likely to affect them as opposed to if they were a week into the season. By then, the Blues would have their legs under them and be in better shape to overcome the high altitude.
Now, you’re going into a situation with no real preseason games and only 10 days of practice/scrimmage. These guys are in tip-top shape, but it’s still likely to be a factor that might sap them of energy earlier than normal. They cannot come out of the gate on fire only to be dead 10 minutes in.