Despite recent struggles, the Colorado Avalanche find themselves in a position to win their last two games and make the playoffs. They need their top line to provide much needed offense to a team that has struggled to find goals recently.
With 80 games in the rearview mirror, the Colorado Avalanche have yet to establish themselves as either a playoff team, or a playoff viewer. Needless to say, there is still a lot to be determined in the final two games of the year. If the Avs are going to make the playoffs, they will need their best players to play their best hockey. They have not been doing so of late.
I am specifically talking about the three members of the team’s top line, here. Colorado’s best goalie, and best defensemen, are out with injury. The team is relying on a backup net-minder, and an overmatched defense group. The top two pairs have flaws, and the third pair would be more at home in an AHL playoff race.
With that said, the team isn’t giving up a ton of goals. With all of their faults, Colorado’s goaltending and defense have been keeping the team in most games. Their offense, specifically their top line, however, has been underperforming. The Avalanche have scored only one goal in five of their last seven games. That cannot continue in their next two, if the team is going to qualify for the postseason.
Mikko Rantanen is the only member of the top line to have any goals in the last eight games. Rants has three goals, and two assists in those games. However, two of the goals were on the power play, and the other was in the third period of a 7-1 blowout loss to the Kings. Rantanen is also a -5 during these games, with a brutal -3 in Anaheim on Sunday night, while the team failed to protect a third period lead.
More than just statistically, Rantanen has looked exhausted to me in recent games. He has always had a proclivity for falling down while no one is near him, but he has done it a ton recently. Perhaps the grind of Rantanen’s first playoff race is having an adverse effect on his play. It would greatly benefit the Colorado Avalanche for Mikko to find his offensive game, and soon.
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Gabe Landeskog has gone into an absolute funk of late, offensively. Landy has two assists in his last five games, but hasn’t put a puck in the net since his shootout winner against Vegas. He has been playing hard, and doing well in other areas. Landy has won 32 of 52 face offs in his last five games, an area the team has struggled with all season. He has 10 hits in the same time period.
However, if Landy does not produce offense in the last two games, all of his great intangibles, and leadership qualities, will not likely find the Avs in the postseason.
Finally, we come to the Hart Trophy candidate of the Colorado Avalanche. Nathan MacKinnon has gone into his worst scoring slump of the season at the least opportune moment. Mack has only two assists in his last six games, and has not scored a goal in his last eight. He has also looked far less explosive, and dangerous, in recent games.
For much of the season, many Avalanche fans, myself included, would be on the edge of their seats when Mack skated with the puck into enemy territory. It just seemed that whenever the team really needed it, he would provide the spark. In the last few games, the team has needed it, but MacKinnon has been unable to provide it.
It is unfair to ask MacKinnon to carry this team on his back, but he has done so all season. Mack already has 31 more points than his previous career high. He has 14 more goals than his previous best. However, as unfair as it might be, if MacKinnon does not put this team on his back, it is unlikely to get to the promised land. I’m sure it is an opportunity that Mack relishes, and I hope that he can get it done!