Tonight’s game between the New York Rangers and Colorado Avalanche features two teams that have been playing well lately. The Rangers have won 11 of their last 12 games and seven in a row. The Avalanche are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and are tied for fourth place in the Central Division.
Two points separate five teams in the Central with the St. Louis Blues in second place (30 points), the Nashville Predators in third (29 points) and the Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets ranked fourth through sixth, respectively, with 28 points. The Rangers are second place in the Metropolitan Division behind the Washington Capitals (38 points) and ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes (35 points). The Pittsburgh Penguins, after struggling at the start of the season, are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and are fourth with 29 points. Here’s a look at the storylines ahead of Wednesday’s game.
2 Storylines: Colorado Avalanche (13-7-2)
The Avs Can Score and Allow Multiple Goals
The Avalanche are tied with the Washington Capitals for third in the league with 91 goals for (GF) and rank first in the NHL with 4.14 goals-for per game (GF/GP). Several players have contributed to their success, including third-year defenseman Cale Makar, who leads the team with 11 goals. He was a Norris Trophy finalist last season and should be in the running again this season.
However, the Avs have been plagued by a tendency to allow goals, which has put pressure on their offense to produce consistently. Colorado ranks 22nd in the NHL with 76 goals allowed (GA) and 27th, averaging 3.45 goals against per game played (GA/GP). Though it’s not an excuse, injuries have played a part in the defense’s erratic play and their goaltending up to this point.
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in an offseason trade and has been average in his first season with the Avalanche. In 15 starts, he has a 9-5-0 record with a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.84 and a save percentage (SV%) of .903. Jonas Johansson, his backup, has not fared better with a 3-2-1 record in six starts and eight games and a 3.74 GAA and a .884 SV%. Justus Annunen has one start in two games with a 1-0-1 record, a 4.34 GAA, and a .863 SV%.
The Avalanche have been a hodgepodge team, capable of winning games with their offense but equally capable of losing them by giving up too many goals. Considered a Stanley Cup contender during the preseason, they will fall back unless they can fix this soon. It is rarely sustainable to give up over four goals a game and win, even if you have a productive offense, particularly in the postseason.
MacKinnon Struggling to Score
Nathan MacKinnon, who missed games after testing positive for COVID-19 and suffering a lower-body injury, has not been a productive scorer this season, with one goal in 12 games. He returned last week after missing nearly a month and is exasperated with the slump he finds himself in.
The team has still been successful in scoring goals and winning games, which is a sign of their depth in that they don’t have to rely too much on one or two players. Despite his scoring trouble, MacKinnon is tied with Gabriel Landeskog for second on the team with 16 assists. Colorado also has a good balance of playmakers, including Nazem Kadri, Mikko Rantanen, and Devon Toews, who have contributed this season. MacKinnon will break out of his scoring slump soon, but until he does, the team’s depth has stepped up.
2 Storylines: New York Rangers (17-4-3)
Panarin is on a Roll
Artemi Panarin has been on a hot streak during the Blueshirts’ 11 wins in 12 games with a 7-12-19 stat line since their victory over the Florida Panthers on Nov. 8. He scored his 500th NHL point during Tuesday’s 6-2 win against his former team, the Chicago Blackhawks, and continues to establish himself as an elite playmaker.
The native of Korkino, Russia, is tied with Alex Ovechkin, Kadri, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Kirill Kaprizov with 21 assists and with Huberdeau and Kaprizov for 30 points. The Rangers forward is near the top in several offensive categories alongside reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox in assists, points, and power-play points (PPP). He and Ryan Strome have become a reliable duo for head coach Gerard Gallant on the second line.
Georgiev Remaining Reliable, Balance Through Four Lines
Backup Alexandar Georgiev has stepped up in Igor Shesterkin’s absence, who is out with a lower-body injury sustained against the San Jose Sharks last Friday. The native of Ruse, Bulgaria, recovered from a shaky start on Wednesday, allowing two goals in the first ten minutes, and prevented the Blackhawks from scoring another goal for the rest of the game. He saved 24 of 26 shots for a .923 SV% and turned in another solid performance after he struggled in October and November.
The Rangers’ fourth line contributed goals during the win, with Barclay Goodrow and Kevin Rooney each tallying a goal, and Rooney chipped in an assist. Ryan Reaves contributed two assists as the team continued to balance their four lines during this winning streak.
The Rangers vs. Avalanche matchup has the potential to be a high-scoring game. The defensemen and goaltending on both teams will have their work cut out for them tonight. Makar and Fox, two of the NHL’s premier defensemen in their third season will face off against each other. The matchup should be a good one, between two organizations with talented offensive depth.