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.
+ 50 For Rantanen (Plus a Few More)
It was very fitting that the 50th goal came on just a normal hockey play, with him crashing the net. A pretty goal would have been real nice for the milestone marker, but after how the last game went, it just needed to happen on a standard play to get it over with. Once he got number 50, the floodgates opened. 51 was a great play by Rodrigues, but a vintage backhand from Mikko. And 52 was the chemistry from MacKinnon and Rantanen that we’ve seen over the years.
41 even strength goals, tops in the league. That’s insane. And 20 years to the day of Milan Hejduk scoring his 50th goal. It doesn’t get any better than that for Rantanen. I imagine a lot of kids his age grew up idolizing Teemu Selanne in Finland. Now, kids in his home country will be looking up to him.
50 goals and counting 👏👏👏Congrats Mikko Rantanen , I might know where you got your magic touch😂👍 pic.twitter.com/19IHNtClF6
— Teemu Selanne (@TeemuSel8nne) April 7, 2023
+ MacKinnon’s Point-Per-Game Pace
Coming into this season, the highest points-per-game pace any Avalanche player has ever had over a full season was Joe Sakic in 1995-96. He finished with 120 points in 82 games. That’a 1.46 points-per-game.
As of right now, Nathan MacKinnon is at 1.58 points-per-game. Even if he played every game down the stretch and failed to pick up a single point, he’d finish with the same points-per-game that Sakic did that year. We all know that’s not going to happen, so we’re looking at the most prolific scoring regular season in Avalanche franchise history. Just think about that for a second. Scoring is up this year, but scoring in 95-96 was really high as well. At what point do we talk about MacKinnon being at the level of those all-time greats in the organization?
All four of his points on Thursday came at even strength. That means he’s guaranteed to finish the season with over a point-per-game at even strength. No one else in the NHL is going to pull that off. Nate the Great has truly been remarkable this season, and especially since the calendar flipped to 2023.
+ Matt Nieto
In his return (again) to San Jose, Nieto was a demon. He stole the puck in the neutral zone just prior to Meyers first goal, and before the final goal in the third period, he was chasing Karlsson around the defensive zone. I think his game had kind of plateau’d a little bit of late, so it’s nice to see some life from him playing in an arena he knows very well.
+ Ben Meyers
Like I said the other day, one of the main reasons to get Meyers in the AHL was to get him some puck touches. Let him build up his confidence in case they need him again. Well, they needed him again, and he finally found the back of the net. And then a period later, he did it again.
He had plenty of chances in the 34 games he played coming into this one, but struggled with his finish. The Avalanche staff doesn’t focus so much on stats as long as you’re playing well, and they’ve liked what Meyers has done when he’s been needed, but if you’re going to stick in the NHL, you have to provide some offense. It was nice to see him finish off his first goal of the night on a break, because he had one just a few moments earlier that he missed. The give-and-go with Newhook on his second was pretty, even if he got a little lucky with it bouncing off his skate.
Meyers was a highly sought after NCAA free agent just a year ago. There’s still some hope that he’ll find his way in the NHL. Given how this season has gone, they may even need him in the playoffs.
– The Third Line
As a trio, Cogliano-Eller-O’Connor has had some moments, but overall, it hasn’t been that impressive when they’ve been together. It was no different against the Sharks.
Bednar has stated multiple times that they think there’s still another gear left in Eller offensively that can be unlocked, but I’m not so sure. Multiple times, he tried to stickhandle around Sharks players, only to have the puck poked off his stick. Right now, he’s sitting at four points in 19 games with the team, and he’s getting plenty of ice time. My concern when the trade happened was that he didn’t have the offense to be a third line center, and I haven’t seen anything yet to change my mind. His value will be in his own end.
The rest of the line didn’t do much either. Cogliano took another hit that had him leaving the ice a little slow, and O’Connor tried to pass on a breakaway late in the game. The three of them combined for three shot attempts on the evening.
– The First 15 Minutes of the Game
An 8:30 PM start here in Colorado, and the first 15 minutes of the game nearly put everyone to sleep. Rantanen had a chance early, but beyond that, the Avalanche couldn’t complete a pass. The Sharks weren’t all that much better. Between the two teams, there were only seven shots on goal in that time-span. Erik Karlsson scored right after, and then Rantanen, to save everyone from on earlier than expected bedtime.