The Colorado Avalanche finished the month of November like – an avalanche, only with goals instead of snow. While it was American Thanksgiving, the team didn’t get much rest. They battled opponents in three games over four days. Here are the good, bad, and ugly leftovers as the Avalanche gave their fanbase more to celebrate and be thankful for.
The Good – MacKinnon and Rantanen
1. Few things could beat the return of Mikko Rantanen to the lineup but Nathan MacKinnon found a way. The NHL named Nate the Great the First Star of the Week off a dominating performance where he racked up three goals and six assists for nine points over the three contests last week. But wait, there’s more. The NHL also named MacKinnon Second Star of the Month.
MacKinnon’s currently on a seven-game point streak where he’s earned 16 total points, he’s tallied 25 points in 14 games for November, led the Avalanche to an 8-6-0 record without linemates Gabriel Landeskog and Rantanen, while leading the league in shots for the month with 79. Oh yeah, the last Avalanche player to earn 25 point in a month was some guy named Joe Sakic who racked up 26 points back in March of 2000. Not like it’s a big deal or anything. Cough, cough.
2. Defenseman Cale Makar earned NHL Rookie of the Month honors for November. He led all rookies in the following categories – goals, points, game-winning goals, plus/minus, and average ice time. His three game-winning goals in November are the most in a single month of any rookie defenseman in NHL history. That’s #Winning.
3. Rantanen returned to the lineup for the third game of the week, at the Pepsi Center, in the second matchup of a back-to-back with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Moose made a big splash in his return, boasting a four-point night in only 10:43 of ice time. The Avalanche were doing so well by the third period, leading 7-3, the team could afford to sit him out. By the way, his four points also placed him third on the team for the week in scoring. MacKinnon and Rantanen – reunited – and it feels so good. If you’re facing off against them, though, maybe not. Wicked giggle.
4. Forward Joonas Donskoi quietly had a pretty good week himself, scoring two goals and earning four assists for a six-point week. Four of those tallies came playing with Rantanen and MacKinnon in the third contest of the week. Kind of nice when the team has mix and match top scoring lines.
5. Defenseman Nikita Zadorov shut down Connor McDavid when the Avalanche hosted the Edmonton Oilers. Coach Bednar had told him ahead of time to prepare for taking on the NHL’s scoring leader. Zadorov apparently did his homework as McDavid didn’t register a single point and was held to three shots on goal. Linemate Leon Draisaitl also failed to score and only managed one shot.
The Avalanche won the game 4-1, a far cry from when they were blown out by the same Oilers just a couple of weeks earlier. Zadorov missed that contest as he was recovering from surgery. That’s the difference in what a shutdown defenseman can do for a team. Give the man a cheer, or maybe a bottle of vodka. Anything to encourage him to re-sign with the Avalanche, with a bit of a team-friendly contract next season. It never hurts to plan ahead.
6. The Avalanche rolled to three-straight wins, out-scoring their opponents 16-6 this past week. They climbed back into second place in the Central Division, fourth in the Western Conference and eighth in the NHL. They did that while missing two of their top three forwards and with a rotating carousel of injuries throughout their lineup. The NHL has been put on notice. An Avalanche is coming.
7. Defenseman Calle Rosen joined the club after being called up from the Colorado Eagles. He also earned his first point in an Avalanche uniform while debuting on the team against the Oilers. Congratulations and may it be the first of many successes!
8. Rosen wasn’t the only call-up to earn a point. Forward Logan O’Connor potted his first NHL goal against the Oilers. While it’s been frustrating to lose nearly a third of the forward starters this past month, watching the call-ups rise to the challenge and help the team has been inspiring. Keep up the good work O’Connor! It’s exciting to see your hard work pay off.
9. Last week, 15 different players earned at least one point and 11 different players scored at least one goal. For those who are long suffering Avalanche fans, it’s called depth. And that’s what it can do for a team. As a side note, all this experience can only help during the playoff push.
10. Both Landeskog and Matt Calvert are traveling with the team for the upcoming three-game road trip. What a difference a week makes. It looks like the Avalanche are putting the band back together. Now, who’s gettin’ the pig?
11. As if the week wasn’t already chock full of wonders, the Avalanche won the faceoff battle in two of three games. It’s been so long, is that a good thing?
Bad – Andre Burakovsky and Power Play Woes
1. Andre Burakovsky, the forward who earned applause in the previous Avalanche Weekly, left the contest against the Oilers after the second period. He’s injured and considered day-to-day with an upper body injury. Losing another scoring forward is bad. Being able to lose a point-per-game player and finding ways to win anyway, though, shows resilience. So, there is something to be thankful about, even if it’s not ideal.
2. The Avalanche power play continues to suffer a power outage. The team only scored once on the man advantage this past week in 10 chances. While they are ranked 12th in the league, scoring 19.4% of the time on the power play, they certainly didn’t manage that this past week. It would be nice if they could figure out how to consistently run a dangerous power play. It’s not like they have incredible scorers on the team or anything.
Ugly – Erik Johnson and Colin Wilson
1. Leading defenseman Erik Johnson, injured on a dicey hit from the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Alexander Kerfoot, is not day-to-day like originally expected. The team announced he is now out week-to-week, without a definite expectation for his return.
This is ugly for a lot of reasons. He’s a mentor on the blueline, an alternate captain, and the team’s leading shutdown defenseman. Can the injury bug stop now? Is there a vaccine or something the team can take to put an end to this outbreak? Anyone? Bueller?
2. Forward Colin Wilson will not be returning anytime soon. After missing time for an undisclosed injury, it now looks like he will be out long term. He will be having surgery for an unspecified lower body injury. The wounded list is getting ridiculous. You can’t make this stuff up.
The Avalanche have continued to utilize their talented AHL Eagles’ roster to fill holes. Forwards Jayson Megna and A.J. Greer returned to the Eagles while Sheldon Dries and Logan O’Connor were called up. Dries went back down to the Eagles as Rantanen prepared to return. Rosen was called up to help support the blueliners as Johnson went out. T.J. Tynan has logged 11 games so far this season with the big club. The carousel continues to twirl. Where it stops, nobody knows. It’s enough to make one’s head spin.
What to Watch
1. Altitude will be hosting a Digital Town Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 8 pm MST to answer questions about the Comcast/Dish network dispute. It will be a live Q&A forum on both Twitter Live and Facebook Live.
It’s a nice effort from Altitude to reach out to the fans and answer questions about the brouhaha. One can argue it’s overdue, but at least they’re attempting to engage with the fanbase. That’s progress. And it’s something Comcast & Dish aren’t doing. Make of that what you will.
2. The Avalanche take their show on the road – again – for a three-game road swing against the Atlantic Division. They begin with a chance to redeem themselves against Toronto on Wednesday at 5 pm MST on the first leg of yet another back-to-back. Thursday, on the second leg, they will take on the Montreal Canadiens, also at 5 pm MST. The final road game will be Saturday as they face the Boston Bruins in a top-line matchup, again, at 5 pm MST.
3. The following week, the Avalanche will have three home games, with a more regular schedule. Two of the three teams they will be hosting will have new coaches – the Calgary Flames and the New Jersey Devils. Things could get interesting.
The Avalanche made the most of their holiday week. Now it’s time to see how they handle their Atlantic road swing. With Landeskog and Calvert likely rejoining the lineup on the trip, there may be some rocky moments while adjustments are made. But it can only help the team in the long run to get some of their veterans back.
Key questions remain. Will Landekog or Calvert return to play on a line with MacKinnon and Rantanen, or will Donskoi stay there? Who will play on the Nazem Kadri line? Will Rosen ever play any special team minutes? These and other pressing issues will all be addressed in next week’s issue of the Avalanche Weekly, breaking down all the good, bad, and ugly for your reading pleasure.
J.D. has followed the Colorado Avalanche since the days of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. Blessed to cover the team for nearly 5 seasons, 3 of those at other venues, J.D. enjoys working with the Hockey Writers. Proud parent of three humans and two dogs, you can follow all the escapades @JDKpirate.