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 Kraken for the Avalanche.
+ Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen
Somehow, Nathan MacKinnon did not register a point on Friday night. It didn’t matter. On all three of the goals against Grubauer, MacKinnon played a huge role. Three more players just happened to touch the puck before it went in, so no points for Nate. I posted it on twitter, but you could tell in the first period it was going to be a different night. For the first time in a few games, MacKinnon was getting the puck in the neutral zone and entering the zone with speed. He wasn’t able to do that in Games four and five. It continued throughout the game. He also had another strong night in the face-off circle, winning nine of the 15 he took.
And Rantanen just keeps scoring goals. On a team that isn’t getting a lot of goal scoring from the rest of their lineup, he’s been consistent all six games. He was inches away from another goal in the second period after he rung one off the post in the second period. And like Nate, he was great in the face-off circle, winning 64% of his draws.
They needed these two to be the best forwards on the ice, and they absolutely were. Should we have expected anything less?
It’s been a pretty up and down series for Toews, as he’s made some really big mistakes with the puck in his own end that has led directly to goals against.
But in Game Six, I thought he was the best player on the ice. Not just for the Avalanche, but for both teams. He jumped in on the first goal on a great read, he made a great slap-pass on the Lehkonen goal, and he made life miserable for the Kraken forwards. He was reading plays in the neutral zone before they even started, and stick work was back to being elite. Makar coming back was obviously huge for Colorado, but a big game from Toews on a night where they were reunited.
+ Artturi Lehkonen
The image of Lehkonen laying on top of Grubauer in the third period tells you all you need to know. He was a pain to play against, and annoyed the Kraken defenders. Even Will Borgen didn’t go to defend his goaltender with Lehkonen laying on top of him, because he knew he put him there. That’s where Lehkonen has to be to be effective, and that’s where he spent a lot of his time.
The goal itself was massive, because over the last few games, Lehkonen has had some great chances, but has been unable to finish. Added an empty netter for good measure.
+ Lars Eller, Evan Rodrigues, and J.T. Compher
On paper, it’s such a weird line for the Avalanche. Moving Compher to the wing was an interesting call, but it worked. All three of these guys played a big role in the disallowed goal, which is tough, because it was only offside by a hair.
Another dominant night for Eller in the face-off circle, and he was menace down low and on the forecheck. Rodrigues made a soft play on the only Kraken goal in the neutral zone, but more than made up for it on the Rantanen goal at the end of the first. He also had some great backchecks throughout the night. Compher…I’m not sure how he missed that gimme at the end of the second period, but he did. Beyond that, he was fine. He drew a penalty in the second period because of a great backcheck, and his defensive stick with the net empty didn’t allow Bjorkstrand to get a great shot off late on the Kraken’s best chance.
Again, a strange combination for a line, but for one night, it worked.
+ Everyone Else
I really have no complaints. Sure, some people had tough moments, like Newhook with his penalty, but this was the first night where he created a few things offensively. I really liked Ben Meyers in his extremely limited ice time. Sam Girard has gone about his business very quietly this series, and has played well. The veteran energy guys in O’Connor, Cogliano, and Nieto had their best games of the series, and it’s not even close. They actually were able to get the cycle going, and spend some time in the offensive zone.
It was a team effort in Game Six.
– The Eberle Hit on Cogliano, Plus The Call
I don’t know what Eberle was thinking. It’s not like Cogliano turned at the last second. His back was to Eberle the entire time, and the Kraken forward just made a terrible hit. It’s the most dangerous hit in hockey for a reason. Cogliano’s neck and shoulder went directly into the boards, and quite frankly, I was surprised Cogliano even made it back. He’s already fighting through a few things as it is, so I guess add another.
But what are the refs doing there? On the Makar hit, they called a major penalty so that they could review it. That’s exactly what should have happened on this play. It was clearly from behind, and caused an injury. Call a major, and if you review it and disagree, so be it. I don’t understand the thinking on that call after what happened just a few days earlier.
If you’re on the Avalanche, you have to be thinking this is suspendable after what they gave Makar. The standard should be set.
– Another Later Game
Somehow, even on a Sunday night, Game Seven will still start later than the usual home start time during the regular season. I figured with it being Sunday it might be different, but nope. Get the coffee ready again, Avalanche fans.