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Avalanche Game 43 Plus/Minus: MacKinnon Makes Statement, Team Has Guts



Avalanche maple leafs

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 Toronto Maple Leafs for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ MacKinnon Makes His Statement

When it comes to voting for major awards, the East Coast (and Toronto specifically), have a lot of sway. Do you think the performance of Nathan MacKinnon on Saturday night will stick in voters minds the rest of the season?

You bet it will.

Saturday night, Hockey Night In Canada, in the middle of Toronto, MacKinnon out-played Auston Matthews and helped the Avalanche mount a massive comeback. When the two of them were on the ice against each other, shot attempts were pretty even, but what happened on the scoreboard is what matters. MacKinnon’s line out-scored the Matthews line 2-0 when they were on the ice together.

MacKinnon may have been the favorite coming into Saturday night for the Hart Trophy, but coming out of the game, I feel pretty confident saying that he’s definitely the favorite now.

+ Drouin Holds His Own

On Monday, Jonathan Drouin will return to Montreal for the first time since leaving as a free agent over the summer.

Will Canadiens fans even be able to recognize the Drouin they see on the ice? Because he’s a completely different player, one who led the Avalanche in 5-on-5 ice-time Saturday.

Drouin continues to hold his own playing with stars, and chip in with big plays of his own. Was the first goal a little flukey? A little. I’m not quite sure what T.J. Brodie was doing, but he basically gave the Avalanche a goal. But on Nathan MacKinnon’s game winning goal, Drouin did everything a coach loves to see on a 3-on-2. He dropped it off to Rantanen, and drove to the net, all while taking away the defender.

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I don’t know if it’s going to. He looks confident, healthy, and like a completely different player. He also looks like a player the Avalanche might not be able to afford after the season.

– The Flu Bug

Valeri Nichushkin was expected to play, but didn’t make it into the lineup. Now, we don’t know if anyone other than Nichushkin and Miles Wood are dealing with a bug right now, but when multiple people on a team get it, you start to worry about it spreading through the organization. Hopefully Nichushkin doesn’t have it as bad as Wood apparently does, but it’s never good to have a bug run through your team.

– The Fourth Line

Two defensemen and a forward as your fourth line isn’t a recipe for success, and it certainly wasn’t on Saturday. With Nichushkin out, the only extra player was Caleb Jones. Rather than go 11/7, Colorado started Jones at forward, and it wasn’t pretty. Jones failed to clear the zone prior the third Leafs goal, and MacDermid’s guy ended up pinching in for the goal. In the second, MacDermid got bailed out in a big way by Alexandar Georgiev after a brutal defensive zone turnover.

Colorado keeps winning, and yes, they’re only dressing a fourth line like this because they were missing three top-nine forwards, but you know depth will need to be addressed going forward.

Can Nikolai Kovalenko (when healthy) just come over now?

+ Gut Check

For as incredible as the top line for the Avalanche is right now, they were dressing a second line of Joel Kiviranta, Ross Colton, and Logan O’Connor as their second line on Saturday. That’s a 3C, a fourth line winger to start the year, and someone who came to camp on a PTO. Then you look at their third line and you see Jason Polin, who has 2 career points in 20 AHL games. Polin even got powerplay time!

This was a severely depleted lineup, and they went into Toronto and outplayed the Leafs. Even in the first period, while the Leafs got up 3-0, it wasn’t like they were dominating the Avalanche. Colorado actually controlled the majority of the shot attempts, but nothing was getting on net.

Andrew Cogliano scored his first goal in almost two months, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Ross Colton stepped up and played nearly 20 minutes, chipping in two points. Games like this are huge for the confidence of a team over an 82 game season.

+ Annunen Recalled

You may have missed this, but in the first intermission, the Avalanche recalled Justus Annunen.

Strange timing, but they want another option for the back-to-back situation they have coming up. The Colorado Eagles can’t score, but Annunen is coming off a few good weeks, and Colorado remembers how solid he looked in camp. I’d say there’s a good chance we see Annunen get his shot either Monday or Tuesday.

– Jack Johnson Leaves

I guess it’s a good thing Caleb Jones had to dress, because he was moved back to defense in the second period. Jack Johnson left in the second period, and did not return to the game. I know Johnson has been dealing with a lower-body injury of late, and it must have gotten to the point where he couldn’t play on it anymore.

Tough way to end your 37th birthday.

+ Alexandar Georgiev Holds Strong

Georgiev looked a little shaky in period one. The first goal was a total fluke, but he struggled to control rebounds.

After period one, he was lights out, and his save after the MacDermid turnover essentially saved the game.

Dare I say…turning point?

+ The Girard Effect

The Avalanche are 6-1 since Sam Girard returned to the lineup. Coincidence? I’m not so sure. While he’s not perfect, he allows Nolan Pratt to use Toews and Makar a lot more in offensive situations, as Girard starts the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone. He also plays a lot, and is trusted in all situations. Big addition for the team.

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