Nathan MacKinnon

You can’t say this guy didn’t do everything in his power to make it happen. They ended up taking the first goal away and giving it to Rantanen and then followed it up by taking his second goal away entirely due to offside. The guy left it all out on the ice.

He was incredible from start to finish and you could see that he knew he had to be at the center of whatever comeback Colorado was going to make. His shifts were just different right up until the very end.

He lost another Game 7 and people will want to make that a MacKinnon thing but anyone who watched tonight and didn’t come away feeling like “If only that guy had some help” instead of “He can’t get it done” should be finding another sport to watch.

Mikko Rantanen

Like MacKinnon, you can’t look at this and feel like Rantanen left anything in the tank. It was full steam ahead all game and they just couldn’t solve Philipp Grubauer. Rantanen was a physical force throughout the night, combining his power with MacKinnon’s to give the Avalanche a Voltron-like quality when they took the ice together.

All they were lacking was the results because it was a truly dominant process. These two guys nearly beat the Seattle Kraken in Games 6 and 7 all on their own. That’s a pretty good hockey team in Seattle, so it’s a testament to how special these guys are.

The champion spirit

After Colorado went down 3-2 in the series and played an extremely disheartening third period to end Game 5, I asked where the fight had gone in this team. A group that had been facing non-stop adversity all season looked like it finally hit the emotional wall and couldn’t get it done anymore.

Instead, the Avs bounced back and played dominant possession hockey for two games. They fought the good fight. Tonight, you saw guys down the lineup break even in possession after getting rocked in previous games. He didn’t score, but Alex Newhook in particular had a pretty strong game that will be most remembered for the comically bad luck he was part on the game’s first goal.

From top to bottom, you could be unhappy with the ineffectiveness of certain players, but there is no doubt that the effort was there. This was a team that didn’t quit even after watching yet another hilarious series of events break against them. They continued to fight uphill in a truly Sisyphusian fashion.


Any concept of a lucky break

Looking at the series as a whole, maybe I’ll feel differently over time but the random stuff that occurs over the course of two weeks and seven games sure seems like it was heavily tilted against Colorado.

While the Kraken lost Jared McCann to injury, that injury was punished in the form of no Cale Makar for Game 5. Colorado lost both Darren Helm and Andrew Cogliano to injury as a direct result of dangerous hits, a cross-check to Helm’s neck via Will Borgen that caused Helm to miss Games 3-7 and Cogliano’s neck was broken on the obscenely dangerous boarding from Jordan Eberle in Game 6. Neither Borgen nor Eberle received any meaningful discipline and both participated in Game 7.

When we talk about Colorado’s depth-scoring problem, not having Helm and Cogliano, two trusted veterans who scored gigantic goals in last year’s postseason, didn’t mean more ice time for Denis Malgin and Ben Meyers. It meant Colorado’s bench got even more top-heavy. Maybe neither guy would’ve done anything in the games they missed, but we’ll never know because they didn’t get the chance.

Additionally, Colorado began the series with the news of Gabe Landeskog being shut down for the postseason, ending any hope of their biggest potential reinforcement joining them. There’s no doubt that was an emotional blow right before the series began.

Then came the incredibly disappointing situation regarding Val Nichushkin, who has left the team for personal reasons. That was another big blow to a team seeking more balance in its offense.

The injury issues for Josh Manson also cropped back up after what can only be described as a disastrous series from him. He was never fully healthy, didn’t get his timing back, had a huge penalty problem, including the one that led to the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 4, and left the Avs for good before the series ended.

Colorado was so beaten up by the end of it, Brad Hunt played 41 seconds in Game 7 as a forward.

Then came Game 7 itself, which was dominated tonight by Colorado in terms of puck possession and all meaningful shot metrics. Seattle finally actually got the puck and were in the offensive zone in a not dangerous situation and the puck got thrown into the middle of the ice. Instead of doing what it has done all series when the Avs have done this, the puck hits two Avalanche players and caroms into the net for the 1-0 lead.

Seattle’s second goal is a bad pinch and a great finish from Oliver Bjorkstrand, so fair play there, but watching the absolute witchcraft on Seattle’s first goal was incredible. They scored the first goal in all seven games. The Avs were forced to come back once again and actually did.

The game-tying goal was taken off the board, however, when Lehkonen was (correctly) determined to be offside. While the first round still has one more game to be played on Monday night between the Rangers and Devils, at the moment there were only two offside reviews in the entire opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs; both came at Colorado’s expense and both took goals off the board.

This is an extremely long-winded way of saying the Avs were unlucky, tremendously so at times, and occasionally they combined that poor fortune with poor decisions and/or poor play. But the things that a team couldn’t control? Seattle dominated that aspect of the series and that’s always part of postseason success. Nobody ever wins in the playoffs because they’re just that good. Luck always plays a role, and tonight was the best example of the entire series.

When you mess around and go seven games with a scrappy, skilled, and high-character team like Seattle, you leave yourself open to nonsense and nonsense the Avs got.

Colorado’s depth

This is more of a series critique than specifically this game because I actually felt like the Avs “other” guys played well at times, especially Evan Rodrigues and Alex Newhook tonight, but the total lack of production in a series consistently decided by one-goal games is extremely obvious.

Seattle’s calling card was its depth and that came through. Colorado’s is its elite talent and they sure as hell showed up in this series (you could probably ask for a little more from Cale Makar, but he was still pretty darn good). The big failure is the Avs got nothing from the depth guys.

It’s not just forwards, either. Sam Girard and Bowen Byram combined for five assists in seven games. On the forward side and of the guys who played real minutes (not Meyers and his five minutes per night), Matt Nieto, Logan O’Connor, Lars Eller and Newhook combined for exactly one point.

I think the guy you really end up disappointed in is J.T. Compher. He finished the series with one goal and one assist despite playing more than 20 minutes in all seven games. His lone goal was largely the product of a guy falling down to give him a breakaway.

Otherwise, the guy with the career-high 52 points in the regular season and the reputation as a clutch postseason performer failed yet again in the playoffs when the Avalanche needed him to elevate his play and be an impact player in the top six (shades of Vegas two years ago).

Tonight, the Avs dominated in shot metrics and Compher finished outshot 15-22 at 5v5 and an expected goals percentage of 25. It was a tremendous letdown. Compher was undoubtedly the more valuable player during the regular season, but if the postseason was used in evaluating who to keep between pending UFAs Compher and Rodrigues, well, Compher didn’t a damn thing to help himself. He’ll get paid wherever he goes, though.

All in all, there were guys who I thought had stretches of playing well (Eller, in particular) but you just can’t go seven games without getting a lick of offense from eight of the 12 forwards. It’s a recipe for, well, exactly what happened.

Unsung Hero

Alexandar Georgiev

The game 7 loss is impossible to pin on Georgiev, who stopped several wonderful scoring chances once the Avs started pressing like crazy in the third period and giving scoring chances back to Seattle for quick counterattacks.

The two goals that beat Georgiev tonight are only the fault of the goaltender if you’re working very hard to draw up a narrative about him not being the man for the Avalanche.

From a series perspective, Georgiev was…fine. He finishes the series with a .914 save percentage and there were a couple of goals you’d love to see him stop along the way but he was far from a problem. He was on his way to stealing Game 4 before the Manson penalty in overtime changed the tone (and potentially the outcome).

He wasn’t remarkable in net but given the workload he faced this year and the way he handled himself in this series, you can take some level of comfort in that Colorado has a viable starting goaltender signed for the next two years at under $4M. I don’t think he won many over in this series, but he shouldn’t have raised significant concerns along the way. I do really wish he had gone for the goalie goal in Game 6 when he had the smallest window of take to make it work. Oh well.


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