MacKinnon put the “pow” in “star power” tonight with a performance that showcased his game-breaking speed but the power that makes him truly unstoppable at times. The play where he taps the puck into open space for his own breakaway is great recognition on his part.
He knows he’s faster than everyone out there and knows if that puck gets into space, he can win the footrace. He does. He also knows Grubauer is pretty familiar with his love of going high glove on breakaways so he changes it up. Cash money.
The game-winning goal is the stuff of a superstar unleashed. Just look at this shift.
Poor Ryan Donato.
Makar finished with a dominant statistical evening (21-5 shot attempt advantage at 5v5), including a goal and an assist. That’s great. None of this is surprising to anybody who has watched how special Makar has been in the last few years.
Despite that, he still does stuff that makes you shake your head in disbelief. Tonight, it was attacking from this position that had me cackling.
Who does this?
Cale Makar, that’s who. He attacks up the ice. On the PK. In a 2v2 situation.
Against almost every top power play unit in the league, that 2v2 features a forward who is skating backward. Spoiler alert, forwards are generally quite uncomfortable doing that. Daniel Sprong blew a tire in this case and created the space for Makar to send the puck ahead to J.T. Compher which resulted in a tie hockey game.
It gets lost because of MacKinnon’s brilliance, but in that video clip above of MacKinnon scoring Colorado’s 5th goal, watch for Makar dusting Donato along the wall. Hilarious, unicorn stuff from Makar.
He was involved in another gift of a goal for Seattle when he and Jared McCann battled for a puck behind the net and it landed right on the stick of Matty Beniers. I don’t know if Toews or McCann was primarily responsible there for the goal that tied the game 3-3.
What I do know is that Toews, who had an assist on MacKinnon’s breakaway goal already, made a giant play early in the third period. Just look at this thing of beauty from #7.
The dig along the wall to take the puck from Jaden Schwartz, the drive up the ice to lead the attack, the patience, the pass to Rantanen. It’s perfect hockey. Two more assists from Toews.
He was having a pretty poor night through two periods. His most notable contribution was getting absolutely embarrassed by Jamie Oleksiak (Penny’s brother) when the hulking defenseman danced off the wall and into the middle of the ice to score on his backhand to make the game 3-2 at the time. Rantanen’s effort, positioning, and execution were all nothing short of horrible on the sequence. Lesser players get benched for that kind of result.
Why wasn’t Rantanen benched? Well, because he can do what he did in the third period. He stepped into the moment, blasted home a one-timer to give the Avs a 4-3 lead and then found an empty net to push the game to 6-3 as Seattle tried to mount a comeback. It wasn’t a great night for Rantanen, but he slammed the door shut on the Seattle Kraken in Game 3 and that’s what we’re focusing on here.
I don’t think Georgiev was awful by any means. The first and fourth goals are perfect deflections by Schwartz. I’m all good there. The third goal is probably a tough ask because that puck is bang-bang from behind the net to a man a foot from him in the slot. The second goal, however, really didn’t sit very well with me.
The Avs didn’t need Georgiev to be superhuman but they were thoroughly outplaying Seattle and when Oleksiak danced Rantanen along the wall and cut to the middle of the ice, I thought Georgiev could have played it a little better. He is unscreened, he isn’t in the midst of crazy traffic, he’s able to read the play the entire way, and ultimately just gets beaten up high.
Backhands are the toughest for a goalie to read, but this just wasn’t a super high-skill play. It’s the one save I really felt Georgiev left on the ice. The rest of his game was just fine. He never was under siege as he was at times during Games 1 and 2, so his workload was easier but his results were still a little lackluster. His game has another level. If he finds it, Seattle is in even more trouble in this series.
Too many penalties in too many big situations. The penalty kill is, well, killing it right now despite the freebie goal at the end that was the first power play goal of the series for either team (each has a short-handed goal, however, which is spicy and fun). Continuing to rely on the PK to completely smother the Seattle power play, however, is not great.
The Avs need to be smarter about some of the decisions they make. I felt a couple of the calls were, ahhhh, not great, but that isn’t the point. Colorado put itself into disadvantageous situations a little too frequently tonight and they absolutely cannot make a habit of giving Seattle chances.
The Kraken are badly struggling to score goals that they themselves create and aren’t gifted by sloppy Avalanche play. Stop putting them on the power play. Make them earn it the hard way.
This is usually reserved for Avalanche players, but this was something coming into the series that I was personally going to keep a close eye on. Dunn played alongside Adam Larsson on Seattle’s top pairing basically all season and was a do-everything kind of guy for the Kraken this year, taking on top competition and chipping in on special teams.
Dunn will likely earn some minimal Norris Trophy support this season after he exploded for 64 points this season (his previous career high was 35). He’s still stapled alongside Larsson, but Dunn made some catastrophic mistakes tonight, including diving in on a 4v4 late in the first period and opening up the breakaway for MacKinnon.
Like most Kraken, he enjoyed a solid Game 1 but has been in pretty big trouble in five of the six periods since then. As the two-way guy on Seattle’s top pairing, watching him struggle to keep up has been a striking contrast as each of Makar, Toews, and Bowen Byram have begun impacting games on both ends of the ice.
If Seattle is to regain their footing in this series, Dunn’s play reaching the level he found during the regular season is a must-have for the Kraken.
No Val Nichushkin tonight as he has left the team for personal reasons. That left Lehkonen as the primary chaos machine in Colorado’s forecheck, especially among the top-six forwards.
Lehkonen delivered tonight with two assists. The first one is just him winning a puck forward and Makar and Compher doing the rest. It led to Colorado’s first special teams goal of the series, so it’s not a meaningless assist or anything. His next assist was winning a footrace to the puck in the neutral zone and finding Rantanen for the empty-net goal. Two assists, but his play went way beyond that.
Seattle is a team that seeks to extract a certain physical toll and Lehkonen is one of the guys on Colorado’s roster who goes looking for that same toll from opponents every night. He didn’t register a single hit in this game but watching the pressure he puts on opposing teams, the work along the boards, the intensity he approaches every shift with, he is a guy that is changing the dynamic of this series from Seattle’s upstart problem children upsetting the big bad champs to the heavily-favored Avalanche beating back the revolution.
I’m adding a second guy to this list because I thought he played a pretty tough couple of games and took a meaningful step forward tonight. The shot metrics aren’t great on the surface but do get a little better the more you dig, but that’s not really what I liked about Manson’s game.
That attack mentality he had last year when he was at his most effective was back tonight and you saw him jumping into the play on multiple occasions to either aggressively keep pucks in the zone or get involved in a scoring opportunity. That’s great.
He also managed a game-high eight hits while committing zero penalties in 15:00 of ice time. It wasn’t an overly physical game from Colorado but its most physical player in Manson certainly stepped into that role and put his best foot forward through three games so far. This was a lot more of the Manson the Avs have been hoping to get.