For the Colorado Avalanche, one of their longest-running strengths was their top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) January 16, 2021
They have played together for years and they have an undeniable chemistry. They are also an offensive powerhouse together and apart, with a collective 1,212 points across the three of them.
Instead of going with that top line, Head Coach Jared Bednar chose the combination he had been testing throughout training camp with Andre Burakovsky taking Landeskog’s spot and Landeskog added to the second line with Nazem Kadri and newcomer Brandon Saad.
Burakovsky had a decent showing in an otherwise dismal game. He scored the only Avalanche goal of the contest on the second unit’s power play, but was a -1.
Burky with first goal of the season! *tips cap*
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) January 14, 2021
In the first game against the Blues, the line of Landeskog-Kadri-Saad was a collective -10, and did not tally a single point.
Saad is currently a -4 and has not yet registered a point. This is not a reason to panic just two games into the season. Saad missed the first part of training camp, and is adjusting to a new team. If 10 games pass and he is still pointless? Maybe cause for concern, but, he might just need time to acclimated. It is still early.
Landeskog’s performance in the first game against the Blues was the interesting showing. The Avalanche captain was -3, took a tripping penalty against Tyler Bozak and looked a bit sloppy. Like Saad, he was also out of training camp early on, but Landeskog has been with the Avalanche organization for his 10th year.
After that game, Bednar was quick to say during practice on Thursday that he would be reuniting the famous top line to the collective “THANK YOU” of Avalanche fans.
A couple changes on the top two lines for the #Avs, per coach Jared Bednar:
Bednar said he wanted to move Saad to the left so he's using his forehand more, and Landeskog moved back to the MacKinnon line.
— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) January 14, 2021
In the second game, Landeskog scored two goals, one being his 200th, and Kadri scored a goal. But they were not on a line together. The top line of Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen was reunited, and each of them scored at least a goal in that blowout 8–0 victory.
It absolutely made sense to break up the Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen line ahead of the season—it allows depth scoring down the front and gives that second line a bit more toughness.
Plus, back in November of 2019, there was a month-long stretch where both Landeskog and Rantanen were out with injuries. In a shortened season in such a hectic time, there is a need for flexibility when you have to factor injuries and COVID-19 protocol. If those three can only score together, that is going to be a problem.
With new players, it takes time to get adjusted to a new system. So as those players get adjusted and the chemistry grows, then it might be time to switch things up. More line changes and different combinations are likely to be tested as the season continues, as different lines might work against different teams.
“I’m certainly going to stick with (Landeskog, MacKinnon and Rantanen on the top line) here for a few games,” Bednar said after practice on Sunday. “Sometimes, I think we’re better with them apart and sometimes we’re better with them together.”