Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon and the Power Play


The Colorado Avalanche’s power play came up with four big goals against the San Jose Sharks. Going into the game against the San Jose Sharks, Colorado was 18th in the NHL with an 18 percent conversion rate.

The Colorado Avalanche seem to channel garden parties sometimes when they get a power play — they pass the puck around like it’s a plate of cookies. They’ve been cycling the puck better this season, but I’ve heard fans at Pepsi Center get so frustrated with the endless passing that they shout “Just shoot!!!” en masse.

Meanwhile, we’ve got Nathan MacKinnon and his seemingly shaky play. 13 games without a goal. He literally had no confidence — like the goof-ball at the junior high dance. Even though he leads the team in shots, I’ve seen him clearly hesitate and then just pass rather than shoot.

Well, when the Colorado Avalanche and Nathan MacKinnon decide to break out of a slump, they do so in a big way.

In the game against the San Jose Sharks, the Colorado Avalanche converted four times on the power play. That’s only the sixth time in Avalanche history that they’ve earned four power play goals in a game — the last time was October 13, 2011 against the Ottawa Senators.

Let’s have a look at those power play goals.

The first came midway through the first period with Joe Thornton off for tripping Matt Duchene. It was Nathan MacKinnon in his first of three goals who scored the power play goal:

Notice how the Colorado Avalanche never even really set up in the offensive zone much less got to passing that puck around. Instead the skaters rushed the net, Carl Soderberg saw his empty man, and Nathan MacKinnon one-timed it. Maybe that was the best cure for MacKinnon — it happened so fast he probably didn’t have time to think about what he was doing.

The next power play goal also came in the first period, this time with Paul Martin off for hooking Jack Skille.

This time the Colorado Avalanche did have time to set up and pass the puck around a bit:

However, the Colorado Avalanche did a better job of actually putting pucks on net, and one finally went in.

The third of four power play goals came after an absolutely filthy second period goal by Matt Duchene:

Turns out Shark Chris Tierney actually tipped it in on his own net. However, that’s still a slick spin-o-rama by Matt Duchene.

The actual power play goal came from Blake Comeau in the third period:

The goal comes on a stunning set up by defenseman Erik Johnson — I thought it was his goal at first. However, Comeau tipped it in. This was the game winner.

The final power play goal was Nathan MacKinnon’s second goal of the night:

This was another example of the Colorado Avalanche having set up and starting to pass the puck around. However, the point of passing the puck is to get it to the player who can score with it. In this case, it was a suddenly more confident Nathan MacKinnon.

Toward the end of the game, with San Jose having pulled the goalie for the extra skater, Nathan MacKinnon and his newfound confidence scored for the hat trick:

Naturally, since the Colorado Avalanche were playing at home, no one threw hats on the ice for the hat trick. However, many Avs fans at home (myself included) threw hats at the TV screen to honor Nathan MacKinnon’s second-ever NHL hat trick.

I don’t think there’s any big secret to either transformation. The Colorado Avalanche put pucks on net during the power play instead of looking for pretty goals, and said pucks sometimes go in. Because some of those pucks went off of Nathan MacKinnon’s stick, he gained the confidence to get back to his game.

If only all of life’s problems were so easy, eh, Avs Nation?