Throughout Matt Calvert's first season with the Colorado Avalanche, the forward provided the team with consistency, grit and effort.
The Brandon, Manitoba, native signed with the Avalanche as a free agent on July 1, 2018, and appeared in all 82 games for the first time in his career, joining Samuel Girard, Nathan MacKinnon, and Carl Soderberg as the only players on the roster to suit up in every contest. He set a personal best with 26 points (11 goals and 15 assists) and tied a career high with 15 assists. The left wing also had a pair of three-game point streaks, Nov 11-16 and Feb 18-22, one shy of his career long.
Video: WPG@COL: Calvert scores 11 seconds after MacKinnon
"Matt is a competitive two-way winger who has the versatility to play throughout our lineup," Joe Sakic said after signing Calvert to a three-year deal last summer. "His speed and tenacity is a strong fit with the way we play."
Before joining the Avalanche, the forward had spent the first eight years of his NHL career with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who selected him in the fifth round of the 2008 NHL Draft. On Oct. 9, Calvert returned to his previous home, but this time in burgundy and blue.
"It was a little tough sleeping last night," Calvert said following the Avs' morning skate at Nationwide Arena. "Your brain is running, facing your old teammates. I'm going to enjoy it and have some fun with it.
Video: Matt Calvert returns to Columbus
Throughout his first campaign with the Avalanche, Calvert added a degree of toughness to the lineup as he led the club and tied for the NHL lead in fighting majors with 6 bouts. He also finished fifth on the team in hits (115) while providing a veteran presence in a young locker room.
Through his playing style and gritty mentality, Calvert was entrusted by Colorado as one of the primary contributors on the penalty kill. One crucial aspect of the man down unit is a willingness to sacrifice and Calvert showed that he is a major representation of that.
The forward continuously made heart-and-soul plays, whether it was blocking shots or taking a big hit to make a play. These types of situations can ultimately change the outcome of the game, as well as earn the respect of teammates and fans.
One play in particular, came at the end of Game 2 of the Avalanche's second round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the San Jose Sharks. Going into that matchup, Colorado found itself down 1-0 in the series and desperately wanted to go back to Pepsi Center tied 1-1.
With about one minute remaining in regulation, Calvert carried the puck towards the defensive zone blue line and slid the puck to a streaking Nathan MacKinnon, but as he delivered the pass Sharks defenseman Brent Burns laid a huge hit on the 5-foot-11, 186-pound forward. MacKinnon went on to put home the empty-net goal, the eventual game-winning tally to tie the series at one game apiece.
Video: COL@SJS, Gm2: MacKinnon scores empty-net goal
"If you are going to win hockey games, this time of year especially, you have to have an element of sacrifice to your game," Bednar said of Calvert taking the hit to make the play. "I think he knows it's coming, he gets his head up, sees him coming and he's got to hang onto the puck for a split second to draw him and make sure he gets it by him and he takes a hit. It's huge.
"It's what we want all of our guys to do, different situations you have to sacrifice, block shots, take hits to make plays and it's a tough, physical game and sometimes you have to suck it up. I think that's exactly what he did and exactly why our guys have so much respect for him cause he has that element to his game, not just in playoffs, but all the time."
Due to that hit, Calvert was not able to play in Game 3 of the series. He returned for Colorado's 3-0 victory in Game 4 but unfortunately missed the final three outings of the series and ultimately finished the playoffs tallying four points (four assists) in eight postseason contests.
Calvert showed his ability to be an impact player on the team and look for him to continue to lead by example through effort and determination as he enters his second campaign with the Avalanche.