The 2018-19 season was one to remember for Gabriel Landeskog, who set career highs in points (75), goals (34) and assists (41) while also helping lead the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second year in a row. It was the first time the team made back-to-back postseason trips in 13 years.
The captain wrapped up his seventh season as the leader of the Avalanche last year and is the seventh longest tenured captain currently in the NHL. He led both on and off the ice, including by demonstrating his offensive abilities through his 34-goal season. He is just the second left wing in Avalanche history to reach 30 goals in a campaign, joining Valeri Kamensky (38) from 1995-96. He ranked eighth in goals among NHL left wingers--second on the Avalanche overall--as well as 10th in points among league left wings. Landeskog also finished third in points, power-play tallies (10) and plus/minus rating (plus-17) on the squad.
The captain was clutch to finish out games all season, ranking first in the league with 20 third-period goals, a new single-season Avalanche high. He also led the team and finished tied for second in the NHL with nine game-winners. Landeskog was joined on the top line by Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen--combining to be one of the highest scoring trios in the NHL. They made up the top three scorers on the squad and combined for 261 points on the year.
"You need your best players to be your best players," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said after an impressive showing by the dominant top line during the first playoff series against the Calgary Flames. "I leaned on those players heavily, and I've been doing that all year. They were exceptional. They were the difference-makers. We're getting contributions from other guys, but those guys are driving the bus and have been for some time."
In the month of October, Landeskog was a force on the ice for the Avalanche. The 26-year-old Swede scored 10 goals, a new team record for October (since 1995-96), while tying the Avalanche mark for a month with four game-winners. Additionally, Landeskog and Rantanen set an Avalanche record for the highest plus/minus rating (plus-14) in the month of October. It was the highest by a Colorado player in any month since Rob Blake's plus-14 rating in March 2006. His heroics earned him the NHL First Star of the Week designation for Oct. 15-21.
Video: Top five plays of 2018-19: Landeskog
Landeskog picked up his 200th NHL assist on Oct. 13 versus Calgary before scoring his third career hat trick on Oct. 20 at the New Jersey Devils. He is one of only six players to tally three hat tricks since the Avalanche moved to Denver--joining the ranks of Joe Sakic (10), Peter Forsberg (7), Milan Hejduk (5), Kamensky (5) and Claude Lemieux (3).
"It's obviously a lot of luck, but at the same time you're getting in the scoring areas, skating and working hard," Landeskog said on his strong play through October. "A lot of it is just coincidence--you happen to be at the right place at the right time. Playing with two good offensive players that can find you--[Rantanen, MacKinnon and I] read each other pretty good. I think you put all those things together with a little luck and coincidence and we ended up getting paid for it."
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound winger took to the ice at his first NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 26 in San Jose along with linemates MacKinnon and Rantanen. Landeskog had seven points (four goals, three assists) over two games after registering the second hat trick in NHL All-Star 3-on-3 history in the first matchup.
It was not the Stockholm native's first All-Star Weekend as he took part in the Skills Competition in 2012 as a rookie, but he did not play in the All-Star Game that year. This year though, he was a full participant in all aspects of the weekend and was able to enjoy spending time with the league's other All-Stars after being voted in by the fans as one of the "Last Men In."
"The rest of the guys are really talented hockey players and good people--a lot of fun to take part in this," Landeskog said on the experience at the All-Star Game. "Obviously guys that you go to battle with on a nightly basis and here you are having fun. It's nice to see that guys can hit the off switch and relax for the weekend."
After setting a single-game franchise record with 12 shots on Jan. 9 at the Calgary Flames and ranking first on the club with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in February, the forward hit another big milestone in the second month of the calendar year. On Feb. 18 against the Vegas Golden Knights, Landeskog recorded his 400th career point with an assist on Andrew Agozzino's first NHL goal. He joined the Tampa Bay Lightning's Nikita Kucherov as the only members of the 2011 draft class to reach 400 points.
After missing nine games during March with an upper-body injury, the left wing came back strong to tally five points (one goal, four assists) in his first three games back in the lineup and helped the Avs clinch a playoff spot for a second straight year.
"Gabe has been unreal since he's come back," MacKinnon said on April 4 of Landeskog's return. "He's helped us get a win against Arizona, a big point against St. Louis and then he did a great job against Edmonton. He's been awesome."
After a strong showing in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs where Landeskog found the net in four straight games, he tallied eight points (three goals, five assists) in 12 contests during the 2019 playoffs--a new postseason career high. He also recorded more than 23 minutes of ice time in 10 of 12 games, demonstrating his reliability on the ice for the Avalanche.
He was the star of the show in Game 6 of Round 2 against the San Jose Sharks. At home and needing to win to push the series to a seventh game, Landeskog notched his first career Stanley Cup Playoff overtime score just 2:32 into the extra frame. It was his second career game-winner in the playoffs and made him the fifth different player in franchise history to record an overtime goal in an elimination game.
Video: SJS@COL, Gm6: Landeskog scores in OT to force Game 7
"I couldn't be happier for him. I think he's our leader, he's been our leader, and for him to step up in the moment like that and get a big goal like that, it's huge," Bednar said of Landeskog's game-winning tally. "Hopefully it gives him confidence going forward. It can be frustrating out there, it's tight checking, there's not a lot of room to move and the officials are letting both teams play. So, there's a little bit more clutching, grabbing, hitting, hooking, holding, all the kind of things you expect and you've got to fight through it, and that's what I was proud of our team tonight. We had had more determination and desperation in our game, and we had to tonight."
Despite losing the eventual Game 7 to the Sharks, Landeskog and the Avs aim to build on their success from 2018-19. Entering his eighth year with the 'C' on his sweater, Landeskog will be looked upon to continue providing veteran leadership and offensive stability as the team pursues a third straight postseason run.