Avalanche’s MacKinnon Cool but Team Continues to Stay Hot

Colorado Avalanche elite, Nathan MacKinnon, notched his 300th career assist against the Detroit Red Wings on March 2 and sits in fifth place for points leaders in the league. Only one other top-five points leader is on a team with more points than the Avalanche. Colorado has depth and they’re showing it. As amazing as MacKinnon may be, he’s not the only reason the Avs are winning games. 

MacKinnon Compared to the Rest of the Team

Coming into the contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Pepsi Center on Feb. 17, MacKinnon was on a hot streak with eight points (2G, 6A) in the seven games prior. He may have cooled off this past handful of games but his numbers for the season still exceed any of the other players on the team. 

Related: Avalanche Battle to Remain in Top Three of Western Conference

He’s the only elite player without extensive time out due to injury so he’s played more games (65 GP) than the other top scorers. However, his 86 points still surpass his next closest teammate by 39 points. Second in line is Cale Makar at 47 but he’s played nine fewer games than MacKinnon. 

Cale Makar Colorado Avalanche
Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Right behind Makar is Andre Burakovsky with 45 points in 58 games played. The Avalanche are getting goals from every player on the team. It’s truly a team effort. 

“You have to have depth scoring in order to win. Especially consistently. We’ve relied on Nate a lot over the last few years and this year. We know that when the time comes, that he’ll be there for us. But to be able to have other guys chip in and win us some hockey games when you’re going through some of the injuries we’re going through,” Coach Jared Bednar said following the 2-1 win against the Red Wings on March 2. 

“Everyone’s playing with different linemates on a nightly basis so there’s some continuity and chemistry issues, I would say, with our team because our lineup’s been so unstable. So (it’s good) to see other guys be able to elevate their game and grab some points and they can support.”

Related: Marcel Pronovost – Red Wings’ Underrated Star

MacKinnon’s top linemates have battled injuries thus far throughout the season. Gabriel Landeskog has played 49 games and Mikko Rantanen has taken the ice for 42 contests. Combined they have 75 points which are 11 points less than MacKinnon alone. 

MacKinnon Compared to the Top Points Leaders in the League

Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl currently leads the league in points with 107. His teammate, Connor McDavid, sits behind him at 94 points with six fewer games played. There is no denying the two play well together as the points speak for themselves. 

Edmonton Oilers Leon Draisaitl
Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports)

For perspective, trailing the power pair is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with just 56 points. Take that into consideration when noting the Avalanche are nine points ahead of the Oilers in the Western Conference. They may have top scorers but they’re not winning all the games. That’s what makes the difference. 

Boston Bruins’ David Pasternak is third in points (91) and behind him on his team is Brad Marchand with 83 points in the same number of games played (66). The Bruins are more comparable to the Avalanche as they lead the league in points due to depth and diversity in scoring. 

New York Rangers’ Artemi Panarin sits in fourth place with 90 points, which is 25 points more than his next highest point-scoring teammate, Mika Zibanejad. There’s certainly an imbalance with their club as they sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. 

Hart Trophy Race Among the Top Scorers

The Hart Trophy is awarded to the player most valuable to his team as voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The fact that the top two points leaders are on the same team, MacKinnon should have more popularity considering his points differential from his teammates. 

According to NHL.com Senior Writer, Dan Rosen, as of Feb. 29, “Draisaitl received nine of the available 18 first-place votes and 79 voting points to edge Colorado Avalanche center, Nathan MacKinnon, by seven points. What may have put Draisaitl over the top is how he has played away from, and for six games without, McDavid.”

Those numbers may have recently changed with MacKinnon in a slight slump. Don’t be fooled, though. He is still shooting and passing the puck to contribute to his team winning games. When he heats back up, those numbers and votes will definitely change. 

Other Scoring Contributors for the Avalanche

As previously stated, diversity and depth have been key to this club continuing to win games through injury and adversity. 

As of late, Martin Kaut scored his first NHL goal against the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 26 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. 

“It’s a dream,” said Kaut following the game. “I am so happy for this moment. It was my dream to score my first NHL goal and I got it, so I am so happy. My mom was here, so that goal is for my mom. We’ll celebrate tonight probably, just a little bit.”

Logan O’Connor scored his second NHL goal and game-winner against the Red Wings. He humbly attributed it to the “next shift mentality, next line up mentality.”

Newly acquired Vladislav Namestnikov scored his first goal in an Avalanche sweater vs. the Red Wings, as well.

Schedule Plus Injuries are Major Factors

With the announcement of Cale Makar out due to an upper-body injury prior to the start of the game vs. the Red Wings, the Avalanche are now facing more difficulty in the toughest month of the season.

They have one back-to-back in the 16 games scheduled in March. But they also only have one day in between every other game they play throughout the month with seven more away and eight at home. 

Considering outstanding injuries and the tough agenda lying ahead, how deep will this team have to reach to persevere?