The Colorado Avalanche concluded their season series against the Anaheim Ducks on a high note, winning 4-1 on Sunday night. Goaltender Jonas Johansson once again performed well for Colorado, allowing only one goal from 25 Ducks’ shots. Now 3-0-1 with Colorado, Johansson has given more credibility to the notion that he can be a reliable backup to Philipp Grubauer, especially in tandem with the team’s newest addition, Devan Dubnyk.
On offence, the top players on the roster continued to roll, as Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog each had multi-point efforts. Colorado rose back to the top spot in the NHL’s standings, an enviable position to be in heading into the trade deadline. Going 6-1-1 against the Ducks certainly helped the Avalanche reach their current position, but they won’t be able to bank any more points against the floundering fowl this season.
Here’s what stood out from Sunday night:
Landeskog Joins the 500 Club
Deep into the third period, the Avs notched an insurance goal thanks to some magic from Cale Makar and MacKinnon:
Landeskog earned the secondary assist on that play, officially notching his 500th point as a member of the Avalanche. The long-time captain has proven to be an invaluable member of both his team’s turnaround from the bottom of the NHL to the top, as well as their current hot stretch that has cemented them as contenders for this year’s Stanley Cup. Since March 1st, Landeskog leads the league in scoring with 31 points, trailed closest by his linemates MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, each with 30.
Landeskog endured a variety of trade rumors during Colorado’s putrid 2016-17 season. But the captain was able to stay aboard and drive the Avalanche forward towards their current success. Both his individual and his team’s success has to be incredibly meaningful to the Swede, a highly-driven competitor who has proven to be one of the better captains in the NHL. When his contract expires with the team this offseason, he will likely be due a big raise for the value he has brought to the club both on and off the ice. (This trade, in particular, would have been an egregious mistake for Colorado)
The Role Players Deliver
While the top guns have, rightfully, garnered the most attention during Colorado’s 15-1-2 run, they haven’t had to do it alone. Several players have been playing some of the best hockey of their careers. That list starts with Valeri Nichushkin, who earned an elevation to the second line on Sunday and immediately paid dividends. His ability to create havoc in the offensive zone led to a loose puck finding Andre Burakovsky in the slot, who fired a wrister past John Gibson to give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead early into the contest.
Nichushkin has routinely made big plays for Colorado throughout his two-season tenure with the club, making him an absolute bargain after being picked up for league minimum last season and then re-signing for two years at $2.5M AAV. He should be an expansion draft target for the Seattle Kraken, and the Avalanche should consider protecting him if able. The Russian winger is one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL and has developed a steady offensive game that makes him dangerous all over the rink.
Tyson Jost has also turned up his game during the Avs’ stretch run. The controversial former top-10 pick has used this season to carve a definitive role for himself in the lineup. Jost has 10 points this year, but six of those have come in the last 12 games. He’s found great success driving play on the third line alongside Nichushkin, creating chances for their third linemate, Joonas Donskoi. Despite being split up from Nichushkin in the finale against the Ducks, Jost was still zipping around the ice, creating chances. His zip opened up a lane for Ryan Graves, who finally got his first goal of the year thanks to a series of ludicrous bounces:
That goal came shortly after the Ducks made it 2-1, giving momentum back to Colorado and ensuring they’d be able to finish the game ahead. Plays like Jost’s on that goal can have a big impact on a club, even one that is seemingly rolling along. Plays like that matter. With 15 games to go, Jost will have plenty of chances to keep making those plays.
Avery is a writer covering the Colorado Avalanche. He is graduating in April with a B.A. in English and Mass Communication. He has previously worked for The Puck Authority covering the Rapid City Rush and for NGU Vision Media as their News Editor. He is a board game enthusiast and enjoys spending time with others.