PITTSBURGH--Cale Makar's season-opening point streak is over, but the run that the rookie had to begin his first regular season was nonetheless impressive.
Makar recorded assists in each of the Colorado Avalanche's first five games to become only the fifth defenseman in NHL history to open their career with such a point streak. He was one shy of tying the all-time record of six that is held by Marek Zidlicky (Nashville, 2003-04), but he was held off the gamesheet in the Avs' 3-2 overtime loss at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.
The Calgary, Alberta, native had his chances though, directing seven shot attempts toward the net and skating a team and career-high 23:53. He played 2:41 of the 3:57 OT period, but he was disappointed after the game that he didn't do more on the ice to prevent the game-winning goal against.
"I like 3-on-3. Anytime I get out there, I'm going to try and make some plays," Makar said. "But at the end of the day you just got to worry about your own zone first.
"We let one guy go in against three guys. That's on us. I got to be better on getting the puck to guys that have more support."
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar had no gripes about Makar's overall game afterward. There was a reason why he trusted a 20-year-old to be on the ice during a critical moment of the contest.
"He was good," Bednar said. "We saw what he did last year in the playoffs. I thought he had a pretty good night though, I liked him tonight."
Makar's play has been a big reason why the Avalanche presently ranks tied for second in the league in goals per game (4.00) and won each of its first five games, the club's second-longest win streak to begin a season since moving to Colorado in 1995.
The blueliner quietly picked up a helper in each contest and recorded his first career multi-point effort in last Saturday's overtime win versus the Arizona Coyotes, registering the primary assist on the team's first two tallies.
His six points after six games lead all rookie defensemen in scoring and are tied for the second overall in the NHL among first-year players.
"I guess it's a nice feeling," Makar said to ColoradoAvalanche.com of his offensive production following Tuesday's practice. "I'm getting lucky on that kind of stuff, but I just want to get back to my game and start playing the way I can."
Bednar said prior to the outing in Pittsburgh that there has been nothing silent about Makar's play to date, and the rookie deserved everything that he had received.
"I'm not surprised to be honest with you. He's been really good," Bednar said. "He had some blunders with the puck, as you would expect, trying to do a little too much at times, but as a young player things are closing down quicker than he's probably used to. The offensive side of his game, his patience and ability to make plays, he's shown that he has had some real good traces whether it's to pass the puck or shoot the puck. He gets rewarded.
"In the Arizona game, it is a tight game. He ends up getting two real good looks at the net for shots, and we ended up scoring on rebounds. It is something that we expect from him. It's what the job demands."
Video: Cale Makar after practice in Pittsburgh
Makar's impressive start to the regular season shouldn't be a shock given what last year's Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey's top player showed last spring. He joined the Avalanche for 10 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and finished the postseason with six points (one goal, five assists). It was the most points among rookie rear guards during the playoffs and tied for third overall among freshman D-men, with the only players recording more having played at least three more games.
He scored on his first-ever shot in Game 3 of the first round against his Calgary Flames on April 15 and continued to torment his hometown club to start his first NHL regular season, picking up his first official point against the Flames on opening night on Oct. 3.
He's now two weeks into the grind of a seven-month NHL regular season where trying to be consistent every game is sometimes the toughest aspect for rookies to learn.
"For myself, I just want to learn something every game, kind of stress the details," Makar said. "I don't think I've been playing super well. I think we're off to a good start, but there are still a lot things as a group that we need to tighten up."
When it comes to creating goals, he's got that part down.