Six goals in four games.
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Are any one of those players better, in their respective leagues than Nathan MacKinnon is playing for the Avs? Nate finished last season fifth in scoring and first in game-winning goals.
Mac finished second in Hart (MVP) voting, narrowly edged out by New Jersey’s Taylor Hall, both men far-and-away ahead of the rest of the pack. He was the superstar the Avalanche envisioned when they made him the top pick in the 2013 draft.
To start this season, MacKinnon has goals in each of the Avalanche’s four games, netting two in Thursday’s contest against the Sabres. His goal against Columbus was absurd, between a teammate’s legs, top corner. To (sort of) quote Avalanche analyst Peter McNab, he’s the best pure shooter that shoots 500 times a day you’ll ever see.
It’s more than offense, we’ve seen Mac drop the gloves to defend teammates, he’s a fierce back-checker and oh, my that speed.
When the Avalanche first arrived in Denver in 1995-6, the top line was Joe Sakic centering Valeri Kamensky and Peter Forsberg. Each player’s complimentary skillset working in beautiful unison with his linemates.
What we see in MacKinnon is that same synergy (yeah, I said synergy) with linemates Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen but what separates MacKinnon is that he has each individual skill in his bag-of-tricks as well. He has Sakic’s shot accuracy and jump. He has Kamensky’s speed and craftiness on-the-puck and he has Forsberg’s toughness and vision.
Still, Nathan manages to be the consummate team player, he truly makes his team better. It is an exciting sports time in Denver and nobody is more exciting than the young Avs and their star player. To carry that strong play and good feeling to the next level, there’s something the Avalanche will need to improve upon: