Colorado Avalanche’s “Third Line” Coming Up Big

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 29: Carl Soderberg
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 29: Carl Soderberg /

The line of Carl Soderberg, Blake Comeau, and Matt Nieto have provided the Colorado Avalanche with solid defense and depth scoring this season.

On October 28, 2017, coach Jared Bednar put Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabe Landeskog together as the team’s top line. All three have been excellent ever since. MacKinnon may be the best player in the NHL since that fateful night.

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Right around the same time, coach Bednar also put three other forwards together. Those players were Carl Soderberg, Blake Comeau, and Matt Nieto. As a unit, these three players have formed a good shut down line at even strength. While they are not perfect, they are often put on the ice against the opposition’s best players. On most nights, they are able to more than hold their own.

What’s more, is that the three forwards lead the team in shorthanded TOI, among forwards. That penalty killing unit is operating at an 84.5 % success rate, good for second in the NHL, at the time of writing this.

Carl Soderberg

Carl Soderberg is having a renaissance season for the Colorado Avalanche. Sods is fifth on the team with 9 goals, and sixth on the team with 21 points. He is fourth among forwards with 17:04 TOI. He has been valuable in all three phases of the game, playing well at even strength, on the penalty kill, and the power play.

Compare this to last year, where Sods had a mere 14 points all season. There were games where he barely played, and rightly so. This year, he is using his size more effectively, already racking up nearly as many hits in 40 games, as he had all of last year. He also has nearly a many blocks. I daresay that this season, he is the most important forward the Avs have, outside the top line.

Blake Comeau

Last season, Blake Comeau made the play that summed up the disaster that was the 2016-17 season for the Colorado Avalanche, when he tried a drop pass on a breakaway. Stunningly, it did not result in a goal! This year, Comeau has rediscovered the value he brought to the Avs during the 2015-16 season, when he tallied 36 points, while being responsible defensively.

Just past the halfway point, Comeau has 8 goals and 10 assists. He leads all Avalanche forwards with 2:46 TOI shorthanded. Again, that PK unit has been excellent. Comeau has been a big part of it. While I do not advocate trading him at the trade deadline, Blake’s success on the PK and at even strength have certainly elevated his trade value, if Joe Sakic elects to pursue such a move.

Matt Nieto

I still remember the exact conversation I had with my best friend, who is a San Jose Sharks fan, the day the Colorado Avalanche claimed Matt Nieto from the Sharks. “Poor Matt!” (Long Pause) “Well, at least he’ll get to play every day. And I guarantee he’ll work harder than most of the guys on the Avs.” It was a very accurate description of Nieto’s contributions to the Avs last season.

This year, Nieto has continued to battle hard every night. He overcame getting in coach Bednar’s doghouse early in the season. He has now earned his place in the lineup on a nightly basis. Nieto has 8 goals and 7 assists so far this year, all recorded at even strength. His 8 even strength goals are tied for third on the team with Rantanen and Alexander Kerfoot. He is also third on the team in SH TOI.

Next: Would Alexander Kerfoot Benefit From More Ice Time?

As a group, the line of Soderberg, Comeau, and Nieto has become an invaluable part of the Colorado Avalanche. They are key contributors on the PK, and help neutralize an opponent’s best players. This line has been a pleasant surprise and an important reason why the Avalanche are contending for a playoff spot.