As with every game, you take the good with the bad, so time to take a look at the pluses and the minuses in the game against the Sharks for the Avalanche.
+ The MacKinnon Missile
For the first 35 minutes of the game, MacKinnon seemed dead set on getting Mikko Rantanen his 50th goal. He nearly succeeded, but it was nice to see him start to let it rip late in the second.
When he got the breakaway in overtime, I knew the game was over. There was no way he was not scoring. After the game, he played down the milestone of getting to 100 points. It probably means something to him, but we all know he would have hit that number years ago if not for some things out of his control.
He’s now up to 1.55 points per game. The season he’s having is ridiculous, and the only reason it’s not being talked about is because Conor McDavid is going off in Edmonton. Dallas and Minnesota may have 98 points as well, but they don’t have a Nathan. MacKinnon.
+ Jack Johnson
Probably their most stable defenseman on the night, which is typically not going to be the best thing. Two goals in four games has to be considered “on fire” in the world of Jack Johnson, especially after going 159 games without a goal.
– The Rest of the Defense
Devon Toews did not have a good night. He got the assist on the game-winner, but his pinch on the first Sharks goal led to the odd-man rush, and he was slow getting back on the second goal to the front of the net. It was a surprise to see him get the nod to run the top powerplay unit over Byram, and he fumbled a few passes that ended up leaving the zone. Not his best night.
But the rest of the defense wasn’t much better. Girard lost his man on the game-tying goal. The third pairing was a mess, especially in the second period. Georgiev bailed them out with his toe save, as well as a few others. MacDermid only got in because Makar sat out the game, but there’s no way he can dress for a playoff game. Beyond the issues defensively, the penalties are just too big of a problem to overlook.
– Force-Feeding Rantanen
Now, Rantanen was left open quite a bit on Tuesday night by the Sharks. A lot of times, he was the best option. But you could tell right from the get go that every player on the Avalanche wanted to play a part in Rantanen scoring his 50th goal. In the third period, it became even more obvious. As the game went on, Rantanen’s aim disappeared, making it even tougher. Him missing the net is what led to the 2-on-0 in overtime.
He has six games to get to 50. It will probably happen. There’s just no need to force it.
+ Exciting Overtime
Maybe the Sharks having absolutely nothing to play for played a part in it, but it was a tremendous overtime. A breakaway on one side, a 2-on-0 on the other, and plenty of other good chances as well. This is what 3-on-3 is supposed to be, but most of the time, it doesn’t look anything like what we saw Tuesday.
+ Georgiev’s Big Saves
I didn’t love his play on the third goal by the Sharks, as he just stayed down and gave up the entire top portion of the net, but the toe save in the second period was incredible. It also looked incredibly painful to us mere mortals. I don’t think 99% of human beings are meant to stretch that way, and yet, Georgiev didn’t look phased.
One thing I’ve loved about his game this year has been his mental toughness and his ability to bounce back, sometimes in the middle of games. That’s exactly what he did in overtime. The stop on the 2-on-0 was perfection, but it was only possible because he read the play perfectly. The Sharks telegraphed it a bit, but a play like that should be an easy goal. Georgiev read it, and gave the Avalanche a chance to win it for themselves.
Six years in a row, and they’ve done it this year without having their Captain play a single game for them. Not to mention all the other injuries they’ve dealt with. Jared Bednar should be up for coach of the year, but with how that award works, he probably won’t even finish in the top five.
Never take the playoffs for granted. It’s the best time of the year, and the Avalanche are now consistently a part of it. I expect that to be the case for years to come.
– No Makar
I had a feeling it was coming. He disappeared from the game the other night for a little bit to apparently get some work done on his skates. He has missed the last two full team practices for what Jared Bednar described as “maintenance.” With just over a week left in the regular season, there’s no need to push it, especially with some weaker opponents this week. The Avalanche can and should beat the Sharks and the Ducks without Makar, if he misses that much time.
With the Avalanche sitting Makar, you wonder just how much they actually care about that first spot. I think they want it to avoid having to play a Minnesota or Dallas in the first round, but I don’t think they view it as necessary. Is it more important to have Makar healthy for the postseason? I’d say so.