Nathan MacKinnon Roller Coaster Week


One day you’re on top of the world, hero of the game for scoring your first NHL hat trick, and just a few days later, you’re in trouble, beat up and homeless. Such is the fate of Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon.

Just over a week ago, 19-year-old Nathan MacKinnon almost single-handedly beat the Tampa Bay Lightning by scoring three types of goals for a hat trick. Naturally, he was so excited, chuckling a little about the second one because it was a tip-in on a Ryan O’Reilly shot:

"“I asked [O’Reilly] if the puck was already going in. He said he didn’t know, but I tipped it anyway.”"

At the time, head coach Patrick Roy remarked that MacKinnon had played well in the game — that he had been playing well for awhile.

The next game was a debacle. The Avalanche went back to playing the kind of lackadaisical hockey that had been getting them into trouble all season. However, MacKinnon was an exception in that case. He scored a goal early on in the first period, a goal that stood as the Avalanche’s only score for most of the game. Yes, the Avalanche lost 5-2, but Nathan MacKinnon had scored.

Somewhere in that game is where things started to go south for the Avalanche. MacKinnon was still fine in Roy’s estimation, I think. However, with the team’s play turning sour, something was going to give.

Well, the game against the Dallas Stars didn’t go as expected. The Avalanche ended up getting away with the win, but they had to come from behind twice to do so. That lackadaisical hockey was back, too.

Somehow, MacKinnon ended up on the short end of all that — and on the bench. He played only about 70 seconds of hockey after the second intermission, despite the game’s going into overtime.

Patrick Roy played off the significance of the benching, stating that he somehow “lost” MacKinnon in the rotation. “It happens sometimes.”

In an interview with Denver Post writer Terry Frei, MacKinnon admitted that he wasn’t having a very good game in Dallas. He added that coach Roy juggled the lines and that “the other guys were playing well” on their new lines. That almost seems a confirmation that MacKinnon got “lost” in the juggling.

However, MacKinnon also talked about being benched:

"“The first shift I was benched, we scored and we kind of started rolling. When things are going well, you don’t want to mess with it. I get it. I’m not rattled about it. At first, you’re kind of shocked. It doesn’t happen very often.”"

MacKinnon adds that he hasn’t talked to coach Roy about the situation yet, but he knows it’s not personal. He played on the third and fourth lines against the Minnesota Wild, but he still got valuable ice time.

Actually, some of that ice time probably got slashed by an action that was personal — Sean Bergenheim broke MacKinnon’s nose.

The Minnesota Wild would love to perpetuate the story that they are a skill team being victimized by “goon” teams like the Avalanche. That’s a pretty hard sell when a team employs enforcer Matt Cooke, who took Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie out with a knee-on-knee hit in the playoffs.

That’s a pretty tough sell when a Minnesota forward clearly targets a real skill player, reigning Calder Trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon.

In the video, Bergenheim obviously runs MacKinnon, who’s long since released the puck. Bergenheim’s elbow is clearly up, though MacK says he thinks it was Bergenheim’s shoulder that hit his face. Either way, the end result is the same — broken MacKinnon nose.

MacKinnon is good-natured about the injury, joking, “I guess I’m a hockey player now.” Indeed, veteran enforcer Cody McLeod, himself no stranger to broken noses, is apparently calling MacK “Twisted Beak.” Probably not a nickname MacKinnon will want to stick with, but it’s a badge of pride.

So, there’s MacKinnon, broken and disgraced after being on top of the world a scant few days before. Yet now Fortune has dealt him another blow. His roommate and fellow Avalanche, Max Talbot, just got traded to the Boston Bruins.

In hockey tradition, young players live with veterans. Last season MacKinnon spent the year residing in JS Giguerre’s home. Giguerre retired, though, and MacK moved into Talbot’s Cherry Creek home.

Now that Talbot’s been traded, though… well, Nathan MacKinnon will be needing new digs. Granted he has the resources to secure fine housing, and plenty of teammates surely happy to put him up.

However, doesn’t it seem a little melodramatic that MacKinnon is stuck looking for living quarters in the same week he had rousing success, infamy and injury?

Next: Hattie for Kiddo MacK

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