After each Colorado Avalanche playoff game, I’ll put out some rapid reaction on what I’m feeling right after the game, before gathering more thoughts for Plus/Minus in the morning.
Okay, this one wasn’t as rapid as I would have hoped, because we were dealing with the Nichushkin situation after the game, but it’s still fresh on my mind.
Everyone knew a Nathan MacKinnon game was going to come at some point. For the first two games of the series, he was held in check by the Seattle Kraken.
One big mistake by Vince Dunn allowed MacKinnon to make his mark on the series. In a four-on-four situation, Dunn made the mistake of reaching for a puck he didn’t have a clear play on. All MacKinnon did was poke it by him, and you knew it was over. Adam Larsson, Dunn’s partner, never stood a chance of catching the superstar. And Philipp Grubauer, who had probably seen MacKinnon shoot glove side on him hundreds of times in practice, knew what was coming, and still couldn’t stop it.
But it wasn’t until the third period that MacKinnon really put his stamp on the series.
In a dominant 47 second shift, the Halifax native gave the wild fans in Seattle a show. When MacKinnon hit the brakes and put a spin move on poor Jesper Froden halfway through the shift, the Kraken fans in the crowd let out an audible gasp. Froden, who entered the night with 21 career NHL games, learned very quickly how much power and quickness MacKinnon has, as the spin move sent him directly to the ice.
MacKinnon missed the net, but he wasn’t done. In fact, he had a few more victims.
Ryan Donato, who had just been victimized by a shimmy move from Cale Makar, was stuck in a one-on-one situation with MacKinnon. A less than ideal situation for the Kraken forward. He tried his best to get in front of MacKinnon, but the Avalanche forward put a move on him, and at the same time, lowered his shoulder into Donato. The Massachusetts native just kind of…bounced off MacKinnon. He had no chance. Next thing he knew, the Avalanche star was by him.
And then came MacKinnon’s old friend Grubauer.
Once again, MacKinnon aimed for the glove side on the goaltender. The only difference is that this time, MacKinnon went high glove as opposed to going under Grubauer’s glove again. A subtle change that may have made a difference. The shot was perfectly labeled, and turned out to be the game-winning goal. When the puck went in, Climate Pledge Arena, which was loud most of the evening, got quiet. You could even hear MacKinnon let out a big “wooooo.”
MacKinnon took over the game, and for all we know, he may take over the series from here on out. And if he plays like that the rest of the series, I don’t know if the Kraken will have an answer.