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RAPID REACTION: Lehkonen And Nichushkin A Coach’s Dream, Jets Nightmare




Yes, this is a team full of superstars, but what made the Colorado Avalanche so dangerous during the 2022 Stanley Cup run was the duo of Artturi Lehkonen and Valeri Nichushkin. Two players that are a coach’s dream who you can put on any line and you know they’ll fit in.

Last Spring, the Avalanche did not have that combination available to them for the entirety of the first round, and the difference was very noticeable. Everyone knows what happened with Nichushkin prior to Game Three in Seattle, but don’t forget that Lehkonen played most of that series on a broken toe. This is a very different team without those two in the lineup or even at full health, and we saw that against the Kraken.

Right now, they’re both healthy, and the Jets have zero answer for them. Not only are they going to outwork you, but they’re supremely talented. How do you stop a combination like that?

It’s hard enough to handle one of these guys in front of the net, but when Colorado has a man advantage, they send both within 10 feet of the crease. I don’t care if you’re the best goalie in the world or an AHL netminder, you aren’t going to have any fun dealing with that duo in front of you.

From where I’m sitting, it doesn’t look like Connor Hellebuyck is having a good time.

The Jets have 12 goals through four games. Lehkonen and Nichushkin have combined for 10. Nichushkin picked up his first career hat trick on Sunday, while Lehkonen was a monster all over the ice. Does he get enough credit for how good he is? His coach sure doesn’t think so.

“He does not,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said after Game Four. “I mean. if you look, if you really watch video and dissect video and look at how many plays Lehky makes on any given night on the offensive side, on the defensive side, he doesn’t get anywhere near enough credit for what he does for our team. He’s so valuable to our team in every aspect power play, penalty kill, five on five, down goals, up goals, scores big goals. I mean, this guy’s a relentless worker, this guy’s a warrior.”

He’s not wrong there. Last year, I did a film room on Lehkonen going over all the little things he does. Not only is he really good at what he does, but he will never short you on effort. You know what you’re going to get every single night with him, and that’s the most valuable thing a coach can have.

Nichushkin has been through a lot off the ice the last year, but his teammates and coach say he’s in a good place. The Avalanche are definitely benefitting from that.

“I’m super happy for him,” Alexandar Georgiev said after the game. “It feels like he’s in a good place right now. Everybody has been supporting him the whole time. Just trying to get him back. He’s an incredible player, awesome guy and I’m really happy things are clicking for him. He always works so hard. Good to see him get rewarded.”

Val had a dip towards the end of the season while he fought through a groin injury, but he’s been an animal in the playoffs. Lehkonen might be the best player on the team through four games.

They’re the ultimate combination of skill and determination on the ice, and that combination is giving the Jets fits.

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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