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Avalanche Game 59 Plus/Minus: Rantanen Rollercoaster, Roaring 20’s Limitations



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.

+ First Period MacKinnon

For the first 20 minutes, I thought Toronto and Hockey Night In Canada were going to be treated to an all-time Nathan MacKinnon performance. He was flying, and sent Morgan Rielly to the spin zone on the Andrew Cogliano goal. It was the type of start the team really needed, but unfortunately, it faded as the game went on. He still finished the game with three assists, but it sure felt like we were going to sit back and watch a five point performance from the Avalanche superstar.

Losing a game where you get a three point night from MacKinnon hurts…

+/- Mikko Rantanen

I’ve got a lot of people in my mentions on social media saying that Rantanan doesn’t look like he cares, and I’d like to use last night as evidence to show that is clearly not the case.

When Rantanen tied the game up at three, you could see the goal meant a lot to him, as he let a huge fist pump go. On the flip side, he knew he messed up with his penalty in the third period, slamming his stick against the glass. In the locker room, he was clearly dejected, and knew his mistake cost his team. He cares, even if he’s not at his best right now.

I was ready to give Rantanen a big + until the final five minutes of the game. He looked more engaged and was using his physicality a bit more, but it’s hard to ignore that penalty at the end of the game. It really hurt the team, he knows it, and the Avalanche need a fully engaged Rantanen more down the stretch.

– Self-Inflicted Wounds

The refs really let both teams play last night, and only called penalties that were blatantly obvious. I still have yet to see a replay of the Toronto penalty 49 seconds in, but I’d have to assume it went out cleanly.

Colton’s penalty was as blatant as can be. The puck was right there, he didn’t touch it, and he stuck his butt out to get in front of the Toronto skater. He didn’t even need to do it, because he had Toews back there with him. Just hit the puck over to him and keep the play going. Toronto got back into the game quickly on that powerplay.

On the Marner goal, it sounds like Rantanen jumped on the ice instead of MacKinnon for the center. That meant the Avalanche didn’t have a center on the ice. Rantanen is actually a better face-off guy than MacKinnon, so it might not have mattered all that much, but he’s still not a center. The goal itself? Not great, and you could tell from Georgiev’s reaction that he knew it.

Not much more can be said about Rantanen’s penalty. He had time, and just messed up.

Toronto is a very good team, and good teams will make you pay for mistakes. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday.

+ Great Game To Watch

Overall, I felt that was a fantastic hockey game. No, it wasn’t the result the Avalanche wanted, but both teams played hard and it was highly entertaining. Nothing better than watching two good teams play each other.

+ Powerplay Comes Alive

It’s a shame they only got one opportunity to show what they can do, but that powerplay a minute into the game was electric. They were wiring the puck at the net non-stop, making fantastic plays to keep the puck in, and it eventually paid off with an Artturi Lehkonen goal. That was easily the best powerplay had looked since the All-Star break, but they weren’t able to show if it was a mirage or not the rest of the night. At least they took care of business when they had the chance to.

– Penalty Kill Doesn’t Help At All

On the flip side, you’ve got a penalty kill that was ripped apart by the Maple Leafs. Granted, the Leafs have been doing that to a lot of teams of late, but it didn’t even look fair. The first Bertuzzi goal just broke the Avalanche defense down, creating a two-on-one down low. Bertuzzi was left all alone at the side of the net, and Marner was able to skate in towards Georgiev to make it look like he might shoot. Just way too easy.

On the game-winning goal, the Avalanche did something they’ve done a lot this year, and it always catches me off-guard. Instead of throwing a center out for the face-off, they used Logan O’Connor to take the draw. He’s clearly not a center, and lost the face-off, giving the Leafs possession. They never gave it up. Not one, but two Avalanche defensemen chasing Nylander behind the net was just brutal. I guess I get Girard trying to force him around the net, but not sure why Manson went behind as well. It’s a killer, and Georgiev lost track of the puck as well.

Colorado’s penalty kill has been fading a bit of late, and currently sits 12th in the NHL. When you lost the special teams battle any night, it’s difficult to win games, and just killing one penalty on Saturday could have made the difference.

+/- Roaring 20’s Line

The Wood-Colton-O’Connor line was dominant a lot of the time on Saturday. When Ross Colton was on the ice, the Avalanche controlled 71% of the shot attempts over the Leafs.

The problem? The limitations of that line were clear. They’re an awesome line and work really well together, but they’re not a second line in the NHL. They just don’t have that finishing ability. O’Connor had a breakaway stopped in the second period, and then another great chance that couldn’t get through. Colton had not one, but two pucks go across the goal line. Neither went in the net. There’s some bad luck involved in some of that, but man, if this team had a legitimate second line playing in front of them, this team could do some real damage.

+ Made It On Hockey Night In Canada

Hockey Night In Canada was looking for video footage of Gabriel Landeskog for their broadcast, so Avalanche PR sent them my clip, which they used on the air.

I have to say, it’s still a little surreal to see something you shot shown on Hockey Night In Canada, a staple for decades, but really cool.

Does this mean I’ve made it?

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