Mikko Rantanen

50 goals is one of those numbers in hockey that can define a career. Rantanen becoming the first player since Milan Hejduk 20 years ago (to the day, in fact) could be another notch in building an all-time great legacy in Colorado. He’s already won a gold medal at the WJCs, a silver medal in the World Championships, and, obviously, a Stanley Cup. Those are the kind of accomplishments that build the foundation of a Hall of Fame career.

Getting to 50 goals in a single season is also the type of mark that forever becomes a feather in his cap. After the hat trick tonight (his Avalanche-record third of the season) and adding an assist on Nathan MacKinnon’s seeing-eye goal in the second period, Rantanen is also up to 98 points on the season with five games remaining. If he gets to the 100-point mark, he will join Joe Sakic as the only Avs to accomplish both 50 goals and 100 points, let alone in the same season (Sakic did it twice, Hejduk finished his 50-goal season with 98 points).

As far as the game goes, Rantanen’s jolt of life was badly needed after the Avs gave up the game’s first goal in the waning minutes of the first period. It had been a low-event slog up to that point, but when Rantanen tied the game the Avs took flight into the first intermission, came out and dominated the second period and never looked back.

Rantanen was the spark and he appeared to be a man relieved of the pressure of chasing 50 goals from the moment he scored it. Now he can just be the moose again. Maybe he tracks down Sakic’s Avalanche-record 54 goals, maybe he doesn’t. We’ll see how the final five games go, but this was a night for the history books. Similar to me leaving this space solely for MacKinnon two nights ago, I’m leaving this just for Rantanen tonight.


Colorado’s first period

It’s kind of odd that we’re here. The Avs went through about 50 or so games as one of the better teams in the NHL in the first period. Even though it sure feels like they’ve slipped lately and struggled their way through a lot of first periods, they have a goal differential of +22 in the opening frame of games.

Despite that, this was definitely the continuation of a recent trend where Colorado didn’t play a very energized start to the game and it seemed like they were waiting for something to happen, good or bad, to really wake up and feel like they were into it. The opening 15 minutes or so featured very few whistles and even fewer scoring chances. There just wasn’t a lot happening for either team.

When the Sharks scored first, they seemed pretty excited about it and, frankly, so did the Avs. They woke up immediately, scoring 62 seconds later and building on that momentum to begin the second period.

Against San Jose, the Avs can get away with these types of blah starts. We just saw last week when Minnesota was in Denver that if the Avs don’t get off to a good start against a desperate and quality hockey team, they will pay the price for it. The Avs have been downright awful at chasing games this season and lethargic first periods are a good way to be in that position against actual good teams.

I do wonder how much the schedule is hurting the Avs in terms of turning that intensity up consistently, but they might just be in that anxious mindset where they’re over the monotony of the regular season and are ready for playoff hockey to get here. Adrenaline junkies and all, you know?

Unsung Hero

Nathan MacKinnon

A four-point night as he mostly just fed Rantanen and got out of the way. Pretty good recipe. His goal was a laugher but somehow he is now just three shy of another 40-goal season of his own. His ridiculous year continues.

Ben Meyers

Two goals? BEN MEYERS?

Jokes aside, you could see this one coming. Maybe not TWO goals, but Meyers had been all around goal-scoring chances before his recent demotion and even after. While down in the AHL, he has been one of the most consistent Eagles with 24 points in 30 games overall.

He got back up and immediately started fumbling away scoring chances, including earlier tonight in this very game. It had become one of those jokes, but the reality is that Meyers has had the kind of quality scoring chances that you don’t have to work very hard to see a 10-goal season for him if he gets a little luckier and a little consistency in linemates. A guy like Matt Nieto is perfect because he fits the style Meyers plays but is effective in that role.

Ultimately, though, Meyers finished a great scoring chance on his first goal and then went hard to the net and got a little lucky on the second goal. He deserved that luck. He deserved that finish. Good for him and both goals really helped solidify there would be no comeback in this game, as there was on Tuesday night.

Alexandar Georgiev

Had to do less and less as the game went on, but as the Avs were sleepy in front of him in the first period, Georgiev made the couple of quality saves asked of him. There are some score effects built into the underlyings in this game, but the Avs gave up an insane 20 high-danger scoring chances and 35 scoring chances to the Sharks at 5v5. Those are both atrocious numbers.

Yet, just two goals for the Sharks, who are a pretty decent scoring team as far as bad teams go. Georgiev wasn’t spectacular and the two goals given up you aren’t really pinning on him, especially the second goal when J.T. Compher fell down and Erik Karlsson found a wide-open Lorentz on the backdoor. Georgiev committed awfully hard to the shot, but it being Karlsson, you have to respect it.

He set the Avs goaltender record for road wins in a year on Tuesday and now he’s just building on it. He might get his final road start on Saturday in Los Angeles and boy that would be a good one for him to come up big in. Pressure is on moving forward. His easy nights are very likely over.


A.J. Haefele was born in Aurora, Colorado, raised in Katy, Texas and is the Colorado Avalanche beat reporter for DNVR. AJ helped launch the network back in 2015 and has filled roles as a team leader and Editor-In- Chief, along with co-hosting the DNVR draft podcasts along with his other duties. You can hear him every weekday on the DNVR Avalanche podcast. Follow AJ on Twitter - @returnofaj