Over the course of the regular season the Colorado Avalanche depended on the play of one line to generate a bulk of their offense. With benches shrinking due to the demands of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Coach Jared Bednar took this same strategy into their first round match-up against the Calgary Flames and in paid off beautifully.
Nathan MacKinnon saw his average TOI ice spike from 22:05 in the regular season to 23:47 in the first round. Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen have also seen similar dramatic shifts in their playing time. Expect the San Jose Sharks to see a heavy dosage of these skaters during this series and don’t be surprised if they spend a lot of time in the offensive zone.
These 3 were the leading point producers for the Avs in the regular season and it’s been no different during the Playoffs. Rantanen leads the way with 9 points and 5 goals, while MacKinnon isn’t far behind with 8 points and a team leading 26 shots on goal.
This duo has transformed into arguably the most potent scoring combination in the NHL. MacKinnons power and speed are unmatched in the current NHL and if he gets to full speed he’s a one man entry machine. If he’s coming at your netminder on a breakaway you are almost better off taking a penalty to slow down the 23-year-old. But often times the kid from Halifax gets the better of you when you play his game.
His partner in crime Mikko Rantanen has quickly become one of the most prolific scorers in the NHL. His size, speed, and soft hands have been on display for his entire career, but this year he took his game to another level. He tallied 31 goals and ended the season with 87 total points. His finishing ability pairs extremely well with MacKinnon’s style of play. MacKinnon attracts most of the attention when he takes the puck to open areas of the ice, which allows Rantanen to make his way into the dangerous areas and get set up for easy scoring chances.
The San Jose Sharks are going to have a difficult assignment planning for that top line, but they also shouldn’t overlook some of the depth forwards on this Colorado roster. Young skaters like Alexander Kerfoot, J.T. Compher and Tyson Jost have made great strides this year and would love to make a name for themselves in this league with a strong playoff performance.
There are also a few veterans with a decent amount of Stanley Cup Playoff experience like Colin Wilson, Carl Soderberg, and Matt Nieto. That experience is underrated, especially for a team with a young core like the Avs. Having some cool heads on the bench when things tighten up is crucial to keep things from unraveling in the face of Playoff adversity.
The mix of high-end talent, young blossoming skaters, and guys with playoff experience is a surprisingly good mix of forwards when you take a closer look. Team Teal will have their hands full containing the firepower of Colorado’s forward group.