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Avalanche Game 17 Plus/Minus: Makar’s Assist Streak, MacKinnon Lacking Bite



Avalanche predators

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 Predators for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ Makar’s Streak Continues

Whatever the heck those final 35 seconds of the game were aside, Cale Makar continues to make history. He now leads the NHL in assists, and with his third straight game with three assists, joined some elite company. Only Roman Josi, Ray Bourque, and Paul Coffey have had three consecutive games with 3+ assists.

Erik Karlsson hitting 100 points last year was crazy, but right now, we’re looking at the possibility of two defensemen topping 100 points this season.

And they’ll both be at Ball Arena on Wednesday night.

– MacKinnon Lacking Bite

A lot of people have been in my mentions on social media about how Nathan MacKinnon looks bad right now. If you look at the numbers, he’s racking up the points, as he’s got 22 points in just 17 games. That’s a 106 point pace, and nothing to sneeze at.

And yet, he certainly doesn’t look like the MacKinnon we’ve come to expect. He hasn’t been a dominant force, he hasn’t really taken a game over yet, and while he’s picking up assists, he’s not finding the back of the net himself. Is there reason to be concerned?

Absolutely not.

This is awfully similar to how he started last season, and let’s be real here – it’s November. There’s no reason to empty the tank just yet. Last season, he had just six goals through the first two months of the year, got hurt, came back, and challenged Connor McDavid as the best forward in the NHL after the new year.

Right now, he’s shooting just 7.4%. His career shooting percentage is 10.2%. Pucks will start going in eventually, and the urgency will pick up. I do think his game is lacking right now, but I’m not all that worried.

– Inability to Close Out The Game

Credit to Nashville for the push they made at the end of the game, but the Avalanche really lacked urgency down the stretch.

Colorado’s last credited shot on goal was by Makar with 6:25 left in the game, and it came from 140 (!) feet away from the Nashville net. That was the only shot on goal the Avalanche were credited with in the final 10 minutes. When this team is successful at closing out games, it comes from them continuing to push the pace offensively. That didn’t happen in this game.

The Avalanche were hemmed in their own end for so long during that final stretch that a few of the guys on the ice couldn’t even change, despite the bench being right there. Byram’s final shift was 2:30, and Rantanen’s was 2:27. Both of them were gassed, and couldn’t clear the puck out of the zone, but they weren’t alone. It was just a comedy of errors and weird plays. Colton looked like he had a chance to clear, then the puck bounced on him. Toews went to rip it around the boards, but it hit a Nashville stick and bounced right in front of Georgiev. Rantanen went to clear, and smacked it right into his own teammate. You could see that goal coming from a mile away.

The game winner? I don’t even know how to describe that one. That puck just rocketed off the boards behind the net like I’ve never seen before.

A tough way to lose two points, but that’s hockey. You can’t just stop pushing and expect to close out the game. There are too many good NHL teams that will make you pay, and the Predators certainly did on Monday. The Avalanche didn’t play great, but they also didn’t play poorly for the first 50 minutes. They played well enough to put themselves in a position to get some points, but the finish just wasn’t good enough.

– The Fourth Line

The fourth line was dynamite the previous two games, but the Predators completely owned the play when they were on the ice Monday. As a trio, in just 5:27 together, they were outshot 10-2. Bednar cut back on their ice time Tuesday, maybe for a reason.

+ Alexandar Georgiev

Yes, he gave up four goals on 30 shots, but is it weird that I walk away feeling better about Georgiev after that game?

Okay, I’ll answer that…I know that’s weird. He’s now finished 10 of his last 11 starts with a save percentage under .900. That’s not good, and it’s difficult to win with any sort of consistency in the NHL with that goaltending.

But on Monday night, I actually felt it was the first time in a while where he looked pretty good. His first period was his best period in weeks. Unfortunately, it was ruined when the Avalanche let Filip Forsberg walk right down the slot uncontested in the final 20 seconds, but before that, Georgiev had to make multiple big saves just to keep the Predators at bay. Even in those final 60-90 seconds, the Predators were peppering Georgiev, but the Avalanche failed to make any clears to alleviate the pressure just a little bit.

He needs to be better, there’s no question about that, but I don’t feel as bad about his game on Monday night as I have after some of these other sub-.900 games.

+ Valeri Nichushkin’s Goal Stretch

Six goals in six games, and they all have looked mighty similar, outside of his game-tying goal against the Stars. Plant yourself in front of the net, and get your stick ready for a deflection. Without Gabriel Landeskog, the Avalanche need a guy that’s able to do that, and Val looks like he’s taking that role now.

– The Non-Existent Identity of The Johansen Line

If you look at the numbers, they weren’t bad at all. In just six minutes of ice time together, they outshot the Predators 4-0. The problem is that they don’t really have an identity as a trio, and for a line that’s supposed to be your second option offensively, you really only trust them to play six minutes together?

It really does seem like a line thrown together because they’re the remaining pieces up front, and they don’t want to break up lines that were working. You can tell by listening to Bednar that he would rather have Johansen playing with a guy like Nichushkin or a healthy Lehkonen, but he can’t do that right now, because he’d rather make sure he has one big line going.

It seems like the team doesn’t really want to separate Rantanen and MacKinnon right now, so this is kind of what they’re stuck with. Until they decide to do that, I don’t know what the solution is.

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