Notes from Game 5: Where in the world is Nathan MacKinnon?


On Wednesday following the third consecutive loss for the Colorado Avalanche to the Vegas Golden Knights, fans were wondering where Nathan MacKinnon has been. As a fan sitting in the stands at Ball Arena last night, MacKinnon was very present. The issue was that for most of the game he was defended by at least two, if not three Vegas players. There was not much room for him to skate,   and credit the Vegas defense for shutting him down.

There were several occasions where MacKinnon did breakthrough and found daylight through the neutral zone, but the Golden Knights clogged the shooting lanes well, making it difficult for MacKinnon to create chances for his teammates. Mikko Rantanen was having the same issues as well. Gabriel Landeskog was the only top-line player that was not playing on the top line, so he was able to maneuver a little better on second line with Valeri Nichushkin and JT Compher. Together, they made some strong plays and had scoring opportunities that simply did not land in the back of the net.

And, while MacKinnon is the Avalanche’s best player, it cannot all fall on his shoulders to carry the team all the time. But, in a pivotal Game 5 during the biggest moments, you expect more from your stars.

Logan O’Connor was very noticeable. It was his first game back returning from injury, but you would not have guess it. When he played on the fourth line earlier in the season, you could tell he provided something to the Avs that they do not usually get. And, with Matt Calvert sidelined, O’Connor looked to give some energy to his club that got out-played the last pair of games.

While it was interesting that Jared Bednar slotted O’Connor on the third line, it was even more of a surprise that Brandon Saad was moved up to the top line. Saad has been a bright spot for the team and has kept the Avs in a lot of games in this series.

Here are some more notes from the Avs’ Game 5 loss to Vegas:

  • Ryan Graves had seven scoring opportunities with none of them landing in the back of the net. The Avalanche were looking to their defensemen to play a big part in the scoring opportunities given the Golden Knights were shutting down the forwards.

  • It was evident that Marc-Andre Fluery was struggling in the net. He gave up a lot of rebounds and did not seem to be on top of his game.

  • For the first two periods of hockey, the Avalanche looked more in control than they had in their two losses to Vegas in Sin City. Colorado was forechecking and forcing turnovers in the Vegas zone.

  • Bednar said in his postgame press conference that he was happy with the team’s play, except for those few turnovers which made the difference in the game.

  • Landeskog nailed it in his press conference after the game when he said the team needs to be ready for Game 6.

The Avalanche are now in a make-or-break situation. They play in Vegas on Thursday night. Win and they come home to Colorado for Game 7. Lose and they go home again in the second round.

No one said beating the Vegas Golden Knights would be easy, and for the Avs, it is a real test of their ability to play Stanley Cup-winning hockey if they can make this a series, and win it.

Center Ice Forums Notes from Game 5: Where in the world is Nathan MacKinnon?

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