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Avalanche Game 79 Plus/Minus: Hart Worthy, Defensive Response



Avalanche Wild

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 Minnesota Wild for the Colorado Avalanche.

+ Just Give Him The Hart

I feel like I’ve seen enough.

I remember during Nathan MacKinnon‘s rookie year, there was a game at home against the Islanders where he got the puck in the neutral zone and just blew past Thomas Hickey to score a goal. It was one of those first “holy crap!” moments of his career. Last night, there were three of them.

What do you do if you’re a defenseman on those three goals? You try to face him as long as you can, but he’s going so quickly that you don’t even have time to react and pivot to skate the other way. I actually felt kind of bad for those guys on Tuesday night. They’re NHL defensemen who looked completely helpless, and there’s only so many players in the world who can make you feel that way.

We got the “MVP!” chants again last night. A lot. After both of his goals in the second period, we got them. During the long delay once he scored his hat trick, we got a lot of them. He came out for the post-game interview and got them again. Then, as fans were exiting the building, they were chanting it just because they wanted to.

He was robbed of the Hart Trophy way back in 2018, but he shouldn’t lose out this season. That was an MVP performance at both ends of the ice.

+ Defensive Structure

It’s entirely possible the Minnesota Wild were ready to fly to Cancun right after that game, because they generated absolutely nothing. The Avalanche deserve a lot of credit for that, though.

27 shot attempts by the Wild through 45 minutes of 5-on-5 play, and the Wild were only credited with one (ONE) high-danger scoring chance. That’s quite the response after your coach uses the word “absurd” and “dumb” to describe some of the things you did defensively just a few days earlier.

Sure, the penalty kill let them down, but that was a fantastic performance on the defensive end.

– Depth Scoring

Well, it’s a good thing that MacKinnon went off last night, because the Avalanche didn’t see their other lines generate a whole lot of offense. They might have been more focused on their own end, and if they were, they did a pretty good job of slowing things down, but I’m not sure the team has found the right combinations with the other trios just yet. There’s some pretty big pieces missing (*cough* Rantanen *cough*) but they also haven’t really found the right combinations in the bottom six. Only three games left to figure that out.

+ Casual Makar Record

I think most would agree that Cale Makar hasn’t been at his best this season, and yet, he broke his own record for points in a season from a defenseman on Tuesday. That’s just how talented he is.

We haven’t gotten the “wow” moments from Makar this year like we have in years past, but he’s still been a consistent producer. His goal was just evidence of what his skating ability allows him to do. He made it look simple, but creating a lane like that is not something that 99% of the defensemen in the world can do.

– That Chris Wagner Penalty

What are you doing there? That was about as blatant a holding penalty as you’re going to get, and at a brutal time, seeing as how the Avalanche had just given up a powerplay goal.

He paid for it, too. Wagner didn’t touch the ice for about 15 minutes, with his next shift coming around the thirteen minute mark of the second period. Today, he’s not even listed on the Avalanche roster, so he’s probably headed back to the Eagles with Rantanen’s return imminent.

+ The Drouin Resurgence

If you’re on social media, you can see Allan Walsh, who is Jonathan Drouin‘s agent, hyping up his guy every single night. It’s getting harder and harder to see a contract extension in the future, simply because he’s earned a hefty raise.

That being said, how can you not be happy for him? After the game, Jared Bednar said he isn’t even sure what Drouin’s ceiling is anymore. I’m not so sure either. He’s getting better as the year goes on. The behind-the-back pass to MacKinnon, in stride, for the 50th goal was absolute perfection. If you’re another NHL team, aren’t you watching this and wondering, “how might Drouin look with our top center?”

He’s peaking at the perfect time.

+ Brandon Duhaime

I continue to be impressed with Brandon Duhaime, and now I’m wondering how the Avalanche can keep him around. I can’t imagine he’s going to break the bank on his next deal, so they should be able to figure something out. He’s got the skating to keep up in this system, and while I don’t think he has a ton of skill, he is really good down low in the offensive zone when it comes to protecting the puck and creating space for others.

Fine pickup.

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