While the Colorado Avalanche season is over, eight Avalanche players are participating in the IIHF World Championship hockey tournament. Granted, it is not the Stanley Cup playoffs but after such a gut-wrenching season, one can hope some of the struggling players rediscover their joy of playing and go into the offseason with some confidence. With that in mind, an abbreviated version of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly outlines how the Avalanche players have fared through their first three games.
1. Forward Nathan MacKinnon, playing for Canada, notched a hat trick and an assist in the second game and tallied two goals and an assist in the third matchup. He leads the tourney in goals scored with five so far and is tied for second in total points with seven.
2. Not to be outdone by his teammate and best bud, defenseman Tyson Barrie entered the scoring fray as well, tying MacKinnon with seven points overall from two goals and five assists. Barrie leads all defenseman in scoring. He earned at least a point in all three contests and currently owns a +5 placing him second among plus/minus leaders. That’s a far cry from his -34 for the NHL season.
3.Goaltender Calvin Pickard (in net for two of Canada’s three games) impressed his own teammates in his first outing, blocked a combined 41 of 42 shots and owns the best save percentage of any goalkeeper who has played 120 or more minutes.
4. Wing Mikko Rantanen has four assists for Team Finland, placing him in a fifth place tie for assist leaders. He leads the team in points and has earned a point in all three contests.
5. Forward J.T. Compher, appearing in his second World Championship, proved he earned the honor when he scored the game-winning goal against Sweden. While Compher has played in a limited role, he’s been responsible on the ice and has played tough shifts on both the penalty kill and power play. Can’t help but wonder about Landeskog’s reaction to Compher’s goal.
6. Forward Gabriel Landeskog, playing on one of Sweden’s top lines, tallied one goal and two assists so far and has been a physical force on the ice. He’s crashed the net, blocked shots, checked guys off the puck and is arguably the most effective transition player for the team.
7. Three Colorado players rank in the top 10 for plus-minus rating in the tournament. Stranger yet, every single Avalanche player owns a positive plus-minus rating. Considering not a single Avalanche player finished with a positive rating at the end of the season, the change is worth noting.
8. Perhaps the best part of the World Championships is none of the players are involved with yet another bruhaha over the NHL concussion protocol and the questionable officiating over what constitutes a head shot.
1. Forward and Canada’s Alternate Captain Matt Duchene has yet to score a point. If the argument against MacKinnon’s increased scoring is the quality of the competition isn’t challenging, then what can be made about the total lack of scoring by Duchene? If it was only three games, it might not merit comment. However, on the tail of a season where the speedy scorer only hit the back of the net 18 times, it’s concerning.
2. Forward Carl Soderberg has yet to earn a point for Sweden but is playing solid positionally while logging a fair amount of minutes. His play isn’t really bad, more ‘meh’,
1. Back to the really ‘good’ ugly stuff. With all the rumors surrounding Russian defenseman Andrei Mironov signing soon with the Colorado Avalanche, the opening match between Sweden and Russia brought an unexpected moment. Early in the matchup, Mironov checked Landeskog into the boards with a sound thump heard throughout the arena. It was a good, clean, ugly hit. And one which Landeskog will likely remember when training camp starts. Look for a sequel to this ugly.
Playing a quality hard checking game in the World Championship is good. Checking your future captain into the boards is bold. Maybe Mironov will bring more boldness to the Avalanche. They sure could use a little more bold.
2. Unfortunately, there’s also a bit of ‘bad’ ugly stuff. Gabriel Landeskog may face a suspension for his first period hit on US forward Nick Schmaltz early in their Monday matchup. The hit appeared late and Schmaltz left the game and did not return. No penalty was assessed on the play.