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Avalanche Game 56 Plus/Minus: Drouin’s Touch, Waiting For Rantanen

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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 Arizona Coyotes for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ MacKinnon’s Point Streak

No matter how you look at it, 26 straight games with a point at home is a remarkable statistic. Just look at the guy he passed…

There’s still a ways to go, as the Avalanche are at home a lot down the stretch, but could Nathan MacKinnon really do this?

– MacKinnon’s Poor Face

Listen, Nathan MacKinnon is not putting on a face shield, but I do wonder if the Avalanche have tried to talk him into it at all to protect their investment. Just a few days after breaking his nose, he took a high-stick to the face that caused some blood. I’m sure the blood was a result of the fresh broken nose, but he seems to have no luck right now.

+ The Touch By Drouin

Jonathan Drouin had a goal taken off the board because of a correct offside challenge, a goal he really could have used. He bounced back immediately with a beautiful touch pass on the game winning goal. Just incredible skill and touch on display from him.

– Mikko Rantanen

I think people have been a little harsh on Mikko Rantanen of late. No, he hasn’t been perfect, but we’re still looking at a top 10 scorer in the NHL.

I’m not sure anyone can look past his play on Sunday night.

It started with the slashing penalty. I didn’t see too much there, but you move on. On the Dumba goal, he was forced into a turnover at the offensive blueline, which led to a rush the other way. If you watch it back, he’s on Dumba the whole time, but he leaves him for a second, and Dumba gets the rebound and scores. That wasn’t the end of his nightmare of a first period.

With under two minutes left, he made a great play to force Dumba out of the zone, and chase him all the way back into his own end. That pressure even created a turnover, but Rantanen took it just a step too far, as he hit Dumba well after the puck was released. Yes, I think Dumba went down a little easy, but it was really more about the frustration Rantanen showed in that moment. I thought we were going to get another game where Rantanen snaps at the refs, which we saw a few times last year, but he at least didn’t do that.

The first period wasn’t the only one with some head scratching moments from him.

At one point in the second period, while the Avalanche were on a powerplay, Rantanen’s stick shattered when he went to shoot. No big deal, but instead of rushing to the bench, he just kind of glided there while his teammates worked to maintain possession. Even the fans in the nosebleeds started to yell a little bit at him.

Then you get to the third period, and it looked like the Avalanche had taken the lead on a Drouin goal, but on the zone entry, Rantanen was in the zone far too early, and didn’t seem to make any attempt to stay onside. It didn’t end up costing the Avalanche, but these are a lot of very correctable mistakes happening on one night.

It should be noted that Rantanen was the guy in front of the net creating the screen on the game winner, so the night wasn’t a total wash, but expectations are a little higher for someone like Mikko. He’s got just four points in seven games since the break, so you know he’s got a lot more to give. He has mentioned multiple times about how the previous two seasons were a “grind.” Part of me wonders if the heavy minutes have caught up with him more than anyone else on the team.

+ Ryan Johansen

Credit where credit is due – the last two games from Ryan Johansen have been two of his best in a long time. No, he’s not a second line center, but barring giving up an asset to get rid of the contract, he’ll likely be on the Avalanche down the stretch. Seeing a response matters, and Johansen seems to have responded to getting dropped to the fourth line for a few games.

Will he be able to keep it up? Given how the season has gone, I doubt it, but I thought he looked good on Sunday.

+ Jack Johnson?!?

Games where Jack Johnson scores are extremely rare. Games where Jack Johnson picks up multiple points are even more rare. The Coyotes just kind of left him all alone to walk in, and he took advantage. If that goal got by Georgiev, we’d probably be a little annoyed because I didn’t think it was the best angle, but you take any offense you can get from a guy like JJ. Turned out to be a pretty big goal.

– Lengthy Offside Reviews

We need a time limit on these things. Granted, they got this one right, but how often do you see a goal get overturned after a 10 minute review? And how did the Avalanche have the blueline camera angle right away, but the NHL needed so long to figure things out?

Sunday’s matchup took nearly three hours to complete, which is absurd for a regular season game that didn’t need overtime. That third period review is a big reason why. It really kills any flow the game has.

+ Byram’s Awakening

I’m sure the Avalanche staff has had multiple meetings with Bowen Byram this season, like they would any player, but whatever Nolan Pratt showed him last week has seemed to work. He’s been active joining the rush and in the offensive zone. Bednar and Pratt have taken notice, as he’s had multiple shifts up with Cale Makar when the team gets an offensive zone face-off.

Byram is an extremely talented young player, and at just 22, has plenty of room to grow. Even with his struggles, the staff hasn’t sheltered him, as they clearly believe in him. Only Devon Toews averages more time-on-ice at even strength than him on defense. An activated Byram is a difference maker for this team, and could really help down the stretch.

+/- Scout Season

I really had nowhere to put this, but with the NHL Trade Deadline rapidly approaching, we have reached the point of the year where you do look at the scout list a little more intently. Does it matter? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s fun to talk about.

The Coyotes are likely to sell, as they’re out of it, and with no games at Ball Arena for nearly a month, there were at least 10 scouts in attendance. The most notable ones were two from Los Angeles, and Buffalo Sabres Associate GM Jason Karmanos.

Does it mean anything? Again, I really don’t know, but it’s always more interesting around this time of the year.

– Makar’s Defensive Game

Something is just off with him in the defensive zone this year. He’s already been on the ice for five more even strength goals against than he was all of last year, and he’s played nine less games. Again, like Rantanen, the bar is extremely high for Cale Makar, so he gets graded on a different scale. When you listen to him talk, he knows he hasn’t been perfect. Plenty to clean up down the stretch.

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