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Avalanche Game 25 Plus/Minus: MacKinnon Takes Over, Drouin Elevates



Avalanche Ducks

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 Ducks for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ Nathan MacKinnon Takes Over

No Cale Makar. No Valeri Nichushkin. No Sam Girard, and in the third, no Bowen Byram. The Avalanche lineup was depleted, and they needed their superstar to step up. He did in a big way.

Maybe it was playing on a line that didn’t include Mikko Rantanen, but MacKinnon had to be “the guy” and he played exactly like it. He’s been picking up a lot of points this year, but he hasn’t taken over many games. That’s what he did on Tuesday night. The two assists gave him 500 for his career, making him only the fourth player in Avalanche/Nordiques history to do so.

It wasn’t just offense, either. He put his body on the line in the third with a big shot block. It looked a little scary, and maybe it will swell up overnight, but that’s what leaders do.

– Mikko Rantanen Struggles

On the flip side, you have Rantanen, who struggled to do much of anything on Tuesday. Beyond that new look second line getting dominated, he had the ugly turnover on the powerplay that allowed the Ducks to get some life in the third period. If the Avalanche are going to separate MacKinnon and Rantanen, they’ll need Mikko to be a lot better.

+ Drouin Makes The Most Of Ice-Time Bump

There’s been a few games this season where Jonathan Drouin has played 17 minutes, but he got a pretty big bump in ice-time on Tuesday.

Drouin played 21:36 against the Ducks. It was the first time he had hit the 20 minute mark in a game since Jan. 1, 2022. That was nearly two years ago.

And you know what? He looked good. His previous time on the top line included Rantanen on the other wing. Add in MacKinnon, and that’s three guys that want the puck on their stick. Even eliminating one of those players did wonders for Drouin. That’s part of the reason why I’ve been wanting to see Drouin and MacKinnon with Nichushkin, and we haven’t gotten much of that.

Drouin has been playing well of late, but the points haven’t followed. It was good for him to pick up a few assists, and they were both nice plays. The bounce pass behind the net to MacKinnon was really impressive.

+ Line Changes Add Excitement

Not all of the new lines worked, but it was nice to see something different. I had assumed we’d get some minor tinkering, but we got wholesale changes. It added some spice to a typical December NHL game, and kept the players on their toes. Logan O’Connor doesn’t have the puck skills of a Lehkonen or a Nichushkin, but he does fill a similar role to those two, so him moving to the top line made sense.

The second line didn’t really work, but a lot of that had to do with Rantanen struggling. Without Nichushkin around, he’s the guy that would have to do a lot of the carrying on that line, so if he struggles, it makes sense that the line would struggle.

The third line played some low event hockey, and that’s not a bad thing. Most of the work on that line was done by one guy, though…

+ Miles Wood

Ryan Johansen needs someone on his line that can skate and do a lot of the grunt work, and Wood did A LOT of grunt work on Tuesday. Chip and chase, erasing icings, holding off defenders. You name it, he did it all. A nice bounce back after what I thought was a sub-par performance from Wood against the Kings.

– Playing Down

I didn’t love the game the Avalanche played. For the first 35 minutes, it felt like they were a little lucky to have the lead, as the Ducks controlled the majority of the play. After the Byram hit and O’Connor getting some energy in the building, the Avalanche took over at the end of the second period. That carried over into the third…for a little bit. The final 10 minutes weren’t pretty, and that game was much closer than it should have been. The Avalanche could have very easily blown that lead, but they managed to hold on. Against a good Jets team on Thursday, they can’t play that way again.

+/- MacDermid Giveth And Taketh

Two goals on his last two shots. Pretty impressive that in very limited ice-time, he’s managing to find his way onto the scoresheet. His last game was November 24, and since then, he has two more goals than Mikko Rantanen. Not a stat you love, but impressive for MacDermid.

The penalty in the third, though? Not a fan. First of all, I don’t even understand why he was going after Leo Carlsson. He pretty clearly got tripped by Olofsson. Even if you think he went down a little too easy, your team just gave up a goal and is headed to the penalty kill. Don’t take any chances. Even if he didn’t do anything too crazy, it was just a poor decision overall, and his coach wasn’t happy with the penalty after the game.

– Byram Exits With Injury

This just stinks. It really does. After the game, Bednar said it wasn’t a head injury, but you can never be too sure, and we all know symptoms can pop up a few days later. Everyone saw Jones’ head make contact with Byram’s head, so everyone is thinking it. I had no real issue with the hit, but the result stinks. It sounds like Cale Makar might play on Thursday, which helps a bit, but this team doesn’t have the depth to overcome some of these injuries on defense.

+ Alexandar Georgiev

Did you see how angry Georgiev was at the end of the game? Rather than wait in net for his teammates to come celebrate with him, he charged out to the bench and was ready to leave. I think he felt he deserved the shutout, but the team kind of fell apart in the final 10 minutes. I’m not so sure he’s wrong, and that’s the competitive nature of Georgiev coming into play. Not a bad thing at all, in my opinion. He played a great game, and has turned things around after a rough patch.

+ Josh Manson

Another guy who has really hit his stride. The catching of the puck at the offensive blueline on the game winner was incredible. The reaction time you have to have to catch something like that is something. He could have just dumped the puck in, but instead, he got the puck on net, which helped create the goal.

His play of the night came a little earlier in the second, though. After jumping into the play on a 2-on-1 and having his shot stopped, he raced back to break-up a 2-on-1 and plant Alex Killorn into the boards.

The Avalanche really needed him to step up in Girard’s absence, and he’s done that.

+ Tomas Tatar

Will this man ever score again? I legitimately don’t know, but that was arguably his best game of the season. His shift prior to the MacKinnon goal was tremendous, and you definitely need to see more of that. Based off morning skate, it looked like he was about to be a scratch, but with Valeri Nichushkin unable to play, he got a chance to step in, and made the most of it…outside of scoring.

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