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Avs' Dynamic Duo Reigns Supreme... MacKinnon and Rantanen are at it again

Meghan Angley Avatar
March 31, 2024

The Colorado Avalanche mounted another impressive comeback win and overcame two separate two-goal deficits in their 7-4 victory over Nashville. They punched their ticket to the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.

Notably, Saturday’s win marked their 29th victory at home this season, solidifying their position as the league’s top home team and tying the franchise’s second-highest home win tally – second only to the remarkable 32 wins achieved in the 2021-22 season.

They closed out their homestand 3-1-1 and won their first of the Nashville series after the Predators gave them trouble in past contests. It was the perfect environment for Nathan MacKinnon to continue his excellence and get right back on the horse.

Maybe the home point-streak was snapped, but he can put the Art Ross Trophy race in his sights.

A Rising Tide

… lifts all ships. MacKinnon’s milestones are special and the success is cyclical.

Nathan MacKinnon’s four point night reclaimed first place in the Art Ross Trophy race against Connor McDavid (29-96—125 in 70 GP) and Nikita Kucherov (42-82—124 in 71 GP) now with 127 points.

The PHWA was tasked with choosing a candidate for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, and one big name in the conversation was Jonathan Drouin. The year he’s had exemplifies so much of what the award represents.

He has had to overcome adversity in his personal life in the past and his on-ice results experienced a downward slide prior to Colorado.

He took a chance on himself on an $825,000 deal and his start with the Avs invited skepticism after he went nine games without a point. When Colorado knew to part ways with Tomas Tatar, they equally knew to give Drouin some more time.

And it’s a good thing they did. He’s on track for a career high in points, and it’d be a disservice to suggest that his points total is because of MacKinnon alone.

His playmaking and vision are a perfect complement to Colorado’s top-six, and a fully bought in Drouin is a solid two-way player. He took the time and care to adjust that aspect of his game and was rewarded with opportunity for it. Now his confidence is soaring.

He put Colorado on the board after an early goal-against could have stunned them and played a pivotal role in MacKinnon’s first goal.

After they lost the draw in the o-zone, Nashville tried to rim the puck out along the wall and Mikko Rantanen intercepted it. He protected the puck in the right-circle long enough to get it to Jonathan Drouin. Drouin caught it in his skate and sent it to MacKinnon who sent a pass toward the net. Drouin moved to the corner near the far-post so he could angle the puck in.

Then in the third period, Drouin skated the puck in and Devon Toews pulled up into the zone to become an option for him out high. Toews passed to Josh Manson and Manson went to the top of the slot and fired a shot off. Kevin Lankinen’s pad made the block, but MacKinnon was there to wrist it to the far-post.

Drouin’s zone entry was impressive. He used his forehand-backhand to protect the puck as he entered the slot with four Predators on him and he still managed to escape with the puck to get it to Toews to make the play happen.

Makar’s Mark

Cale Makar recorded his 61st and 62nd assists of 2023-24 to tie the franchise record for most in a season by a defenseman set by Quebec’s Steve Duchesne (62 in 1992-93).

He’s not just coming for Avs’ records, he’s coming for them all.

A three point night also tied Quinn Hughes for the league lead in points by a defenseman (81).

Makar has experienced his share of struggles this year.

At one point when asked if he was dealing with a lingering injury, he insisted he was healthy and that it was “just one of those years.”

This might suggest that he’s having a down year, but he’s snapping franchise records for points, goals, and assists by a defenseman and tying a Norris finalist in the points race.

His struggles really boiled down to a small scoreless stint following the All-Star break. 

The slight bit of deception on his powerplay goal against Nashville is exactly the kind of thing that makes him elite.

MacKinnon battled for the puck down low and Zach Parise stayed with it in another battle with Nyquist who tried to make the clear after MacKinnon’s pass attempt was blocked.

Parise was victorious and got it to Rantanen out high. Makar received Rantanen’s pass and rotated to the left-circle.

He faked like he was going for the one-timer initially and wristed the puck past Lankinen once he was at the top of the circle.

Makar factored on all three powerplay goals.

After Colorado’s D was stifled by blocked attempts in the last two contests, Makar in particular made the necessary adjustments to overcome it. He was still blocked three times against Nashville, but he pushed through and registered four shots on net.

Mr. 100 (Again)

Mikko Rantanen recorded three assists and reached 100 points on the season. He’s sixth in the NHL scoring race and makes Colorado the only team with two players at or above 100 points.

Rantanen joined MacKinnon as the only players in Avs history to register consecutive 100-point seasons.

“All my success has a lot to do with him,” said MacKinnon. “I couldn’t do anything without him. He’s such an amazing player and I think people are, the last couple of years, starting to take notice of how great he is. (He) just continues to be consistent every season: 40-50 goals, 100 points.”

Honorable Mentions

Justus Annunen inherited a difficult situation coming in cold on the penalty kill following Alexandar Georgiev’s unsportsmanlike conduct, but he absorbed the challenge.

He stopped 22 of 22 shots in relief and was perfect in his outing.

Just after a terrific Annunen save off a Roman Josi slapshot, Colorado created an opportunity the other way. 

Brandon Duhaime and Yakov Trenin chased Dante Fabbro on the forecheck. Fabbro had the inside edge and tried to send the puck back to his teammate to avoid Duhaime, but Andrew Cogliano was there to continue chasing it.

Cogliano tied up Filip Forsberg which allowed Trenin to take the puck in the slot and wrist it past Lankinen.

It was a fun goal against his former team. Beyond that, Trenin was a monster on the penalty kill too. He’s elevated that unit in a few ways: he’s winning opening draws in the d-zone, creating shorthanded chances, and bringing game-changing energy.

Colorado’s special teams were dominant against Nashville.

On the first powerplay goal, Casey Mittelstadt juked Colton Sisson at the wall to get his shot through to Makar at the point. Makar fed MacKinnon at the left-circle and MacKinnon’s pass was redirected off a Nashville stick, but it went to Mittelstadt at the goal line.

Mittselstadt slipped the puck to Rantanen at the crease but it was blocked. Mittelstadt skated in and nabbed the rebound himself.

Nashville was an important test of Colorado’s ability to show up prepared for a team that has given them trouble this season. Andrew Brunette’s Predators are a fast-paced team much like the Avs in that sense.

Obviously the Avs went down at several points in the contest, so many adjustments had to happen on the fly and Colorado made them. It’s perfect practice for playoff situations.


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