As we head into the Round Robin with the jump into the real Stanley Cup playoffs for the 2019-20 season which Colorado Avalanche player will make the difference?
That’s an interesting question to ponder given all of the players have had such a long break away from hockey.
It appeared that they were all injury-free until we heard that Cale Makar, Nathan MacKinnon and Sam Girard all missed practices or the exhibition game. Thankfully the news on all three is good with both Makar and MacKinnon joining practices again, and the all-clear coming through on Girard today.
I am wondering whether it will be one of our new guys Kadri, Donskoi, Burakovsky, Bellemare, Nishushkin or Namestnikov that are going to be the player that will stand out. A number of these players have been in Stanley Cup final teams and won.
That experience alone must make a difference.
Kadri came out all guns blazing in the exhibition game. We know he has skill and pace, as well as experience. If he ignites the fire under the second line that has them score multiple times, that could well be the game-changer.
Namestnikov in my mind has well and truly proven himself worthy of a spot on the team. He performed in the exhibition game and seems to make the plays that turn what seems like bad situations into opportunities. At least that’s how I’ve seen it.
I love his reliability too. Maybe he’ll be the difference-maker.
Bellamere has become that guy that just has fun and delivers; time and time again. He and Matt Calvert have brought the Avalanches fourth line to life. Not to say that Matt Nieto hasn’t played his part too. Belly, along with his linemates could show why they have the reputation of being so strong.
Then there is ‘Choo Choo’, Valerie Nishushkin. This guy has proven his strength, determination and ability to be a playmaker in the team. I would LOVE him to be the difference-maker if only to solidify his place in this time moving forward.
We aren’t going to talk about Nathan MacKinnon. Everyone Avalanche fan knows he wants to win the Cup. Everyone has seen his guts and determination to carry this team during the season when it all seemed hopeless.
If anyone can make a difference, it’s Nate. And yet, somehow I think it will be someone else that will shine overall. He’ll be there, doing what he does best, and will remain in the background, constant and not necessarily the huge difference-maker. I could be wrong, and I’d be happy to be that way.
Maybe it will be Mikko Rantanen. We hadn’t seen a lot of him before the COVID break. Could be that it’s Mikko’s time to shine and show us just how valuable he is to the team. He could go back to scoring and sneaking those shots in, just when we need him to.
Then there’s our D core.
Hopefully, Cale Makar‘s poor performance in the exhibition game was just him needing to get his head back in the game. He’s been the difference-maker in regular-season games this season. He could be that stand out again. Driving down the wing and scoring those wristers, whilst the other team don’t know what’s hit them.
Sam Girard is the quiet achiever, so it could be him that makes the biggest difference. He shows up and plays a strong part in the Avalanches defensive game. He, with his work partner E.J., could shut the other teams scoring ability down, such that we all say “Sammy G made the difference”
And it might not be any of these players. With the others in the squad, it could be someone I haven’t even mentioned who stands up and plays their part in this team to win them the Cup.
Part of me doesn’t really want just one ‘difference-maker.’ I would rather have a team of them. That’s what’s gotten us to this position so far this season; a whole team effort. Each and every player making a difference, when it mattered most.
Let’s hope they do that again during these up and coming Playoffs.