Go back two weeks and Twitter was full of people writing about Connor McDavid and his inability to get the job done in the playoffs. Fast forward a week to last week, and Twitter was full of people discussing what on earth the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to do with their core, after another Game 7 loss.
McDavid, Austin Matthews, Mitch Marner and others are playing golf right now.
It is time for Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar to show they are different.
It seems big to say this is career defining for MacKinnon, but it could well be. The greatest players raise their game when they are needed; they do not shy away. The Avs desperately need No. 29 to deliver right now.
Does he prove he is better than those Oilers and Leafs mentioned, or is this another postseason failure and another question mark over this current Colorado roster?
The Avs’ top unit needs to find a way to win battles
Look over the past two games in Las Vegas. At 5-on-5, the Avalanche top line has struggled. There is an argument to be made that this actually started in Colorado back in Game 2, but it has certainly happened in Games 3 and 4.
Missing: Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog
If found, please return to T-Mobile Arena.
— Scott MacDonald (@0ffScottFree) June 7, 2021
They have to find a way to win battles and get on the scoreboard. If you look at how the games have gone recently, the Vegas Golden Knights have used their second line to destroy the Avalanche, especially in Game 4.
The plays they have made have won games, because the top lines have pretty much canceled each other out. For the Golden Knights, that is fine, because they are winning the battle below.
For the Avalanche, it is not fine, because without Nazem Kadri and with Andre Burakovsky struggling for form, all of a sudden, the players who are normally capable in a second line matchup are few and far between.
MacKinnon and his desire to win
Anyone who has heard MacKinnon talk will know he has a huge desire to win and he wants to be the best. At times over the years, this determination to win has dragged the Avs through some rough patches.
But, that has all been in the regular season. Now, he needs to do it in the postseason.
Look back at the playoff failures during his time with the Avalanche, and we have relatively fair excuses for them all.
This time around, it is different; there are no excuses. MacKinnon needs to find his competitive streak, his willingness to win and drag his team through to the next round.
The ability to do this is why many see him as being better than the players mentioned at the top of this piece. Now it is time for him to prove that being right.
It's time for the Colorado Avalanche to take the next step. And what I mean by that is to start playing the Super Mario sound effects whenever Nathan MacKinnon gets the puck. pic.twitter.com/cdeBvlVKKH
— Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyNHL) June 2, 2021
The leadership of Landeskog
Despite not winning a Stanley Cup yet, many fans will talk about Landeskog and his leadership abilities very highly.
He is respected in the room, in the media and by the fans. He is also out of his contract this summer, and will no doubt be looking for a raise.
The Avs will give him that, if he proves capable of leading a team to victory in the playoffs. There is nothing wrong with putting together a very expensive core group of players.
Where this can go wrong is if you get the wrong core together, and you have so much money tied up on players who cannot win in the playoffs, seemingly like Toronto has done.
Colorado needs more from Landeskog in this series. He needs to show that he can lead this team, set an example and ensure the others follow.
Where is the mad moose?
More often than not, we see the best of Rantanen when he is angry, with a point to prove and with something big on the line.
Colorado is in the divisional final round of the playoffs, either going to the final four or heading to the golf course.
Rantanen should not need firing up for the rest of this series with so much on the line, but it feels like he does right now.
Despite their size, he has the ability to physically dominate this Vegas defense, but he needs to get on the puck, get angry and play with a big-game mentality.
The #Avs top line (Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen) hasn't had a 5-on-5 goal in eight periods of hockey.
— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) June 7, 2021
The Makar X-factor
Go all the way back to Game 1 of the series, one which the Avs dominated.
During that game, a number of different defenseman jumped into the play and got involved in the rush. Since then, that has not happened too often, but needs to return.
Turning defense to attack in a couple of seconds is what Makar is good at. Whether it is a threaded pass through the neutral zone, a breakout with the puck or something else special, this is what Makar is on the roster to do.
That needs to get back in his game, as the Golden Knights have shown that they struggle on the rush. Makar needs to take advantage of that.
Makar may play defense, but his ability to drive the Avs forward is why he is so vital to the roster. It is time to go out, play an expansive game and dominate.
Can the Avalanche win this series?
Let’s finish on a positive! Of course the Avs can win this series.
The team is an excellent one. Right now, they are up against another very good hockey team; let’s not forget Vegas tied Colorado for points in the regular season.
But, that does not matter. What this series comes down to is three games, and two of them are played at Ball Arena.
On home ice, the Avalanche can beat anyone in the world. I genuinely believe that.
Two wins and Colorado is through!