Brandon Saad (B) – Brandon Saad continues to lead the charge for the Avalanche. That’s exactly what he was brought to Denver for. He’s that veteran presence that is a requisite of the NHL playoffs. He scores his seventh goal of the playoffs tonight, and now has six goals in his last seven games. He was also credited with two giveaways though.
Nathan MacKinnon (B-) – MacKinnon looked like a man possessed tonight. That’s the Nathan MacKinnon the Avalanche have been missing for much of the series against Vegas. He was cutting through the ice, makings plays, creating chances, winning a good majority of his face-offs. It just wasn’t good enough tonight though. Like his new linemate, MacKinnon was also credited with two giveaways.
Mikko Rantanen (B-) – Was *this* close to scoring in the first period, and then seconds later was penalized for interference for “kicking” the stick of Marc-Andre Fleury. Not so sure about that one, stripes. But the game goes on. The Avs couldn’t buy a power play tonight.
Gabe Landeskog (C+) – I really liked his line tonight. Landeskog was leading the way in the physicality department (team-leading 8 hits tonight) and the led the forwards in ice time, too. He finished with a -2. Landeskog is now -5 in the last three games of this series. The most costly “minus” was his giveaway that led to the Knights’ tying goal.
J.T. Compher (B+) – J.T. Compher had a great game tonight. I’ve haven’t said that statement very often this postseason. I think putting Compher with Landeskog was a great idea. Compher needs a guy like Landeskog to lead the reins a bit I think. Compher was generating chances all night long and nearly ended the damn thing 10 seconds in OT.
“That’s the margin in these playoffs,” Landeskog said of Compher’s near-goal after the game.
Val Nichushkin (B+) – Big Val played a heavy, heavy game tonight. He had his legs under him too. He led the team with five shots on goal tonight. On the defensive side of things, he was the Avs best forward. He chipped in five hits and two takeaways.
Logan O’Connor (A-) – Man, I’ve missed Logan O’Connor. I say it just about every time I watch him play, but the kid’s all-heart. And I say it so often because he’s that consistent. He’s that boost of energy the Avalanche need in the postseason. Someone who not only finishes all of his checks, but seeks them out. It’s a damn shame he wasn’t around for the whole Vegas series. This could’ve been a different series. I’m telling you, he can be that much of a difference-maker.
Tyson Jost (A) – Was *this* to making SportsCenter Top-10 with his trot to the net early in the second period, inches away from giving the Avs a 2-0 lead. But alas. That’s the margin in these playoffs.
I thought, overall, Tyson Jost played a great game. He kicked it into high-gear tonight and was generating chances most every shift.
Andre Burakovsky (C-) – A brutal giveaway early in the third cut the Avs lead to 2-1. It surely swung the momentum in the direction of Vegas, no doubt. But he wasn’t the only one turning pucks over tonight.
Either way, Burakovsky is a guy that hasn’t impressed me much this series—or, really, for a good portion of the postseason, for that matter. He’s turned over a lot of pucks so far, and Colorado’s needed his depth scoring this playoffs, and he’s fallen short.
Alex Newhook (C) – Alex Newhook now has five points and is a +6 in his first dozen National Hockey League games. He’s not there yet, but Newhook has the ability to be a mainstay, top-six center for this Avalanche team for a long, long time. He’s looked better than average in every game he’s played in his young career. Newhook played just over six minutes tonight, and I wouldn’t exactly say he was a difference-maker in tonight’s game.
P-E Bellemare (C) – He made a couple of nice shot blocks, in what I’d say is a vintage Bellemare game. That is to say, he’s blocking shots, making smart plays, nothing flashy, but subtly important. He played few minutes but certainly pulled his weight tonight.
Joonas Donskoi (B-) – Joonas Donskoi was the beneficiary of great sustained O-zone pressure by his line late in the second period to put the Avs up 2-0. That newly-formed fourth line was pretty solid all night long. I thought Donskoi played with good pace tonight, too.
Devon Toews (B+) – He finished with a team-leading +2, five takeaways, and assist and a couple shots on goal in 25 minutes of ice time. I thought he was activating and pushing the pace throughout the night.
Cale Makar (B) – One of the messages preached during the Avs come-to-Jesus team meeting after getting thoroughly out-worked by Vegas in Game 3 was for the D to help out their offense and activate more. What Cale Makar did tonight was all of that. He was flying and making plays left and right. He generated three shots on goal, but finishes with a team-leading three giveaways, as well.
Ryan Graves (C-) – Tough break on the OT-winner for Ryan Graves. He had both of his shot attempts blocked, leading to the game-winning Mark Stone breakaway less than a minute into overtime.
Sam Girard (C-) – I haven’t been exactly impressed with Sam Girard’s play these past few games. He’s been relatively quiet and not as involved in the game as I’d like to see, seemingly frantic and indecisive with the puck. Tonight, I thought he ramped up his physical play a bit at least. He led the backend with five hits.
Patrik Nemeth (C-) – Wasn’t his worse game, by far, in the series. Nemeth picks up his first point of the postseason, and, believe it or not, he’s a +3 in the playoffs.
Conor Timmins (C+) – I love the confidence that Conor Timmins is playing with recently, especially on such a big stage. He’s holding onto the puck more, not afraid to stickhandle a little more, he’s making crisp accurate, patient passes. Keep it up, kid.
Philipp Grubauer (C) – It certainly wasn’t Grubauer’s best game by any means. His glove was too slow on Mark Stone’s snipe, but his teammates hung him out to dry for Vegas’ first two goals.