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Avalanche Game 69 Plus/Minus: Red Hot Rantanen, Drouin Digs



Avalanche Blues

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 St. Louis Blues for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ Red Hot Rantanen

Another 100 point season appears to be in the bag for Rantanen, and barring a collapse, it would seem likely that he’ll set a career high in points a swell.

A 14 point in six game run will do that for anyone.

Rantanen picked up his seventh career hat trick on Tuesday night, and he did so on three goals where the puck was on his stick for a total of 1.8 seconds. That’s what pure goal scorers can do. They don’t need a ton of time, they just know how to finish. The Blues should know this by now, because he’s torched them over the years.

+ Jonathan Drouin

Drouin didn’t quite keep up that point-per-game pace he had in late December, early January, but he hasn’t exactly fallen off the map either. Two more assists on Tuesday night, and the Avalanche used his skills to their advantage on the powerplay. Rather than going with the normal setup, they switched things up, moving Rantanen into the bumper position and putting Drouin along the wall. That’s a spot he played in for years in Montreal, so he’s familiar with it, and they’ve done it from time-to-time this year.

What’s really more remarkable is how far Drouin’s all around game has come this year. Who could have seen this coming eight months ago? He has almost turned into another Lehkonen out there, as he’s become quite the puck hound.

I really don’t know how they’re going to be able to afford him next season. If Gabriel Landeskog comes back, things are going to be real tight, especially with a Mittelstadt extension coming, but whatever he gets, whether it’s from the Avalanche or another team, he’s earned.

+ Casey Mittelstadt

This is becoming a trend, but the Avalanche really aren’t giving up much of anything with him on the ice. In 13 minutes of even strength ice-time, the Blues only managed four shots on goal with Mittelstadt out there. Through five games, I don’t believe he’s been on the ice for a single goal against. He actually managed to have a pretty dominant night in the face-off circle, including one win that led to his goal.

– The Colton Line

The Avalanche are still trying to find the right combination of players in their bottom six to play together, and the Colton line is the one that seems to stick out. They had one really nice shift towards the end of the first where they hemmed the Blues in their own end. Other than that, they did spend a lot of time in their own end, and were on the ice for two goals against. This comes a few days after Colton was on the ice for a few goals against in Edmonton as well. That doesn’t mean it was all his fault, but the combinations are still working themselves out.

Last night, the Avalanche swapped Wood and Duhaime, and Wood seemed to have a bit more jump early. MacFarland said Bednar likes to have a “bottom six” as opposed to a third and a fourth line, and we’re kind of seeing that. The ice-time between the two lines has been pretty even so far.

– The Top Pair Defensively

The Blues got on the board in the first period after a tough turnover by Devon Toews, and when the puck went in, you could see the frustration on his face. Cale Makar had a few ugly turnovers of his own as the game went on. The other two defensive pairs for the Avalanche more than held their own, but these two were on the ice for a lot more shots against than for.

+ Sam Girard

There are certainly times where you’re wondering why Sam Girard doesn’t shoot the puck. At one point in the second period, he got a pass and was all alone in the high slot, but he dropped it back to Nathan MacKinnon at the point, who wasn’t ready for it at all. He was trying to be a little too fancy there, but on the Mittelstadt goal, kept it simple on a set play. The Avalanche outshot the Blues 15-6 with Girard on the ice, and outscored them 2-o.

+ Getting Some Road Momentum

It looked ugly on the road for a large chunk of the season, but this road trip could be a real turning point for the season. It’s amazing what having a second line can do for a team. It makes the Avalanche far more difficult to defend, and pushes everyone else down the lineup into a spot they’re far more suited for. Having an elite top line helps, but this road trip was a total team effort.

+ Justus Annunen

His rebound control was pretty wonky for most of the night, but he kept enough pucks out of the net for the Avalanche to walk away with another win. That’s four in a row for him, and the staff is starting to trust him a good bit.

Colorado’s schedule over the next few weeks isn’t super intimidating, so I anticipate he’ll get quite a few more starts so that the team can keep Alexandar Georgiev fresh for the playoffs.

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