Nathan MacKinnon: Can he Find His Scoring vs Pittsburgh?

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Colorado Avalanche Nathan MacKinnon needs to return to his scoring ways to spur the team on a winning streak it desperately needs.

We’re not going to use the word “slump” with Nathan MacKinnon. And we’re not going to blame the Colorado Avalanche’s woes on the 20-year-old. Rather, I’m going to state a couple simple facts:

  • Nathan MacKinnon hasn’t scored a goal since November 25 against the Ottawa Senators.
  • MacKinnon hasn’t earned a point since November 28 against the Winnipeg Jets.

That’s six games without a goal and five games without even a point. The Avalanche have gone 3-2 since his last point, 3-3 since his last goal, but, again, I’m not pinning anything on MacKinnon.

Rather, I’m going to point out the obvious — the Colorado Avalanche need scoring from all their top forwards.

It’s not fair to compare MacKinnon to Matt Duchene, who went on that epic streak in November. (But, in case you’re wondering, he’s had three goals and a total six points in those six games.)

Of course, linemate Gabriel Landeskog has slowed down, too. He earned a goal and an assist against the Senators and a goal and two assists against the Winnipeg Jets. Since then, though, he’s had just one assist.

Returning to MacKinnon, though, there’s no question he’s been tentative. During the game against the Minnesota Wild, I watched him receive a pass with a clear shot of the net… and decide to pass it on. Players remarked last season that when they weren’t feeling confident, they didn’t even want the puck.

So, does that mean Nathan MacKinnon is lacking confidence? Why, though? It’s true that his shot percentage is relatively low — just 10%. However, that’s largely because he leads the team in shots. In the last five games he’s recorded 16 shots on goal — that’s pretty darn good, but, yeah, it could be playing with his confidence a little that none of them are going in.

Remember, he’s just 20.

Of course, this is a kid who came out like a boss at the beginning of the season. In fact, veteran Jarome Iginla remarked to Dan Rosen of NHL.com that it was hard to believe MacKinnon was controlling games at a tender 20 years old.

MacKinnon’s confidence came through more clearly in his interviews earlier in the year as well. He remarked on a couple occasions that he was “tired of losing” — and he said it with the exasperation of one who intended to effect change.

Recently, though, I’ve heard him remark after a loss that “that’s how it goes sometimes.” That’s resignation — and that’s death in pro sports.

Well, tonight Nathan MacKinnon gets to play against his good buddy Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he gets to do it in his home arena. Last season MacKinnon got a goal against his buddy’s team. It’d probably feel really good if he did so again tonight.

It might even be enough to lift him out of his… funk.

More About Nathan MacKinnon:

Nathan MacKinnon’s Game Face

There’s always a circus surrounding Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby, and last season MacKinnon received some blowback.

Apparently Crosby’s very superstitious, and he has a strict game face. MacKinnon told him “Hey” during warm-ups, and Crosby ignored him. This would have ended things if not for the fact that A- It was Sid Crosby and B- MacKinnon had admitted to once idolizing him.

Reporters assumed that Crosby had snubbed MacKinnon, who must be awful upset about the matter. After all, it stings to get snubbed by your boyhood idol. Some reporters even suggested their agents ought to set up a little meet-and-greet so MacK could get to know Crosby.

It was laughable, of course, because Crosby had already assumed the role of big brother to MacKinnon, who was from his hometown of Cole Harbour. (Read more here.)

Anyway, I think MacKinnon should play the younger brother to the hilt in the name of getting his own game face on. Just imagine MacK skating around Crosby pattering, “Hey, Sid, remember me? We come from the same home town. Remember me, Sid — we spent the whole summer together training? Remember when we ran that hockey clinic for kids? That was fun, eh, Sid? Remember when we visited that sick kid’s birthday party? That was so epic! Remember when we made that commercial for Tim Horton’s? Wasn’t that just hilarious? Hey, Sid. Hi! I said hi, Sid!”

Admit it — that might actually be pretty effective. Unfortunately, MacKinnon is probably too respectful, so he’ll probably just keep his distance.

Or maybe he’ll find his killer instinct — there really is no better time to do it than tonight.