It was laughed off in some circles as archaic thought. You don’t need “tough guys” to win in the NHL anymore. It’s a skill game now, and the Colorado Avalanche is the team with the most skill, and that’s why they’ll beat the Vegas Golden Knights in the playoffs.” Mikko Rantanen now sees it a bit differently.
“We lost to their physicality,” Rantanen said today. “I think that’s my take from the series.”
When the autopsy was complete following the Avs’ sudden, shocking collapse in the second round of the NHL playoffs to Vegas, one thing was determined: Yes, the Avs do need more “tough guys”, which explains why the team signed one of the league’s most fearsome fighters, Kurtis MacDermid. They brought in a defenseman who is known as a bruiser, in veteran Jack Johnson. They brought in Darren Helm, who is known as a feisty guy.
And, it seems, the Avs are trying to change more of their mindset too, not just in physical makeup. It might be summed up as: No more Mr. Nice Guy.
The fact is, the Avs were pushed around too much last year, despite having the best regular-season record in the league. They were pushed around too much by the Golden Knights, with tough guys such as Ryan Reaves, Keegan Kolesar and Jonathan Marchessault getting away with too much.
It’s not like the Avs were a soft team in the playoffs (remember Gabe Landeskog’s pummeling of Brayden Schenn in the St. Louis series?). But they just lacked that certain something when it came to the physical intimidation of opponents. After the Avs took a 2-0 series lead, the Golden Knights tried to turn the games more into a street fight. The Avs seemed to get rattled, got off their game somewhat and lost four straight. The Golden Knights seemed to respect the Avs’ talent, but not fear them as a team. That became evident as the series went along. The Avs always seemed to be the retaliators, not the initiators.
“Just the next step, we have to be ready for playoff hockey. It’s way different than regular season,” Mikko Rantanen said.
You can bet that MacDermid will be in the lineup against certain teams, like Vegas – even though Reaves has moved on to the New York Rangers. The 6-foot-5, 233-pound defenseman said the other day that he will be more than ready to address any “liberties” taken against teammates.
Physicality is also why I think Jack Johnson will stick with the Avs, despite currently being on just a professional tryout contract.
Yeah, hockey is more of a skill game now than it used to be. You can’t win without talent.
But it was made clear last spring: you need some brawn, too.