The ability to score goals isn’t the number one reason Cody McLeod
reached the National Hockey League. Still, the winger admitted it was nice to get the proverbial monkey off his back by netting his sixth goal of the season in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers.
Expectations were raised for McLeod following a successful 2008-09 season, during which he ranked third on the club with15 goals. McLeod started off the 2009-10 campaign in similar fashion, scoring five times in his first 18 games.
But after that hot start, the forward went through a dry spell of 29 consecutive games before lightning the lamp again.
“Thanks for reminding me,” McLeod quipped when those numbers were brought up. “It definitely felt good to score a goal, but I’d rather get the win. It felt good to contribute a little bit though.”
The Binscarth, Manitoba native will be the first to admit that goal scoring has never really been his forte.
After playing junior hockey he plugged away in the minors for a few years and was eventually promoted to the NHL due mainly to his grit and tenacity on the ice, proving that a player doesn’t necessarily need to put points on the board in order to be a factor in the game.
During his goal drought, McLeod was still doing the dirty work for the Avalanche – hitting, winning battles in the corners and occasionally dropping the gloves when the situation called for it.
In addition to his tally Sunday night, McLeod surpassed 100 penalty minutes for the season following his first-period scrap with Rangers’ forward Aaron Voros. In the process, McLeod became the fourth player in Avalanche history to top the 100-penalty minute mark in three straight seasons and the first to open his career in that manner.
Even though he had been contributing in other areas of the game, going through such a long scoreless stretch can make an energy player like McLeod squeeze his stick a little.
“Yeah, it kind of eats away at you a little bit,” said McLeod. “Everyone likes to score goals and you’re obviously going to think about it when you’re going through a stretch like that.”
He knew the offensive part of his game would eventually fall into place if he stuck to the traits that helped him crack an NHL lineup in the first place. And that’s exactly how he got onto the score sheet against the Rangers. With the Avalanche applying heavy pressure in the offensive zone, the forward parked himself in front of the goal and capitalized on a rebound opportunity.
“It’s nice to contribute offensively, but I’ve always been more of a mucker and grinder,” said McLeod. “My game has always been sticking up for my teammates and crashing the net. That’s where I get most of my goals, going to the net hard. I’ll keep doing that and hopefully it continues.”