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MacKinnon Continues to Elevate His Game

The forward is tied for the league lead with 12 postseason points

by Callie Parmele @CallieParmele / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Nathan MacKinnon helped lead the Colorado Avalanche all season and the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are no different.

The 23-year-old forward finished the 2018-19 campaign first on the Avs with a career-high 99 points (41 goals, 58 assists) in 82 games. Through eight postseason contests, MacKinnon has recorded 12 points (five goals, seven assists), tied for the league lead.

His 12 points are the most by an Avalanche player since Joe Sakic also had 12 in 2004. The last time that a Colorado player had 13 or more in a playoff year was 2002 when Peter Forsberg (27), Sakic (19), Alex Tanguay (13) and Greg deVries (13) did it.

"He's working. He's got a hunger to his game right now, and he's working at the point of the puck, he's working away from it," head coach Jared Bednar said of MacKinnon. "He wants the puck. He's one of those guys that, he is trying to get available and is working for the puck all the time because he wants it. He wants to be a difference maker."

A difference maker he has been. MacKinnon scored his fifth goal of the postseason on Tuesday in Game 3 of Colorado's second-round series against the San Jose Sharks.

Video: SJS@COL, Gm3: MacKinnon comes off bench and scores

It extended his point streak to seven games--the longest in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the longest streak by an Avalanche player in the NHL's second season since Forsberg had a seven-game run to open the 2004 playoffs.

MacKinnon's first tally of the postseason came in overtime of Game 2 in Colorado's first-round matchup with the Calgary Flames. It was his second-career playoff overtime-winner, as he also found the back of the net in the extra frame of Game 5 of the Avalanche's Round 1 series with the Minnesota Wild in 2014. 

"I have said it before, but Nate is a superstar and that is what superstars do," Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog said of the OT marker versus Calgary. "Nate was skating like it was first period, first shift. I mean that is the kind of speed he's got and he is in great shape.

"That is what superstars do. He doesn't need a whole lot of time, he doesn't need a whole lot of room." 

Video: COL@CGY, Gm2: MacKinnon wins it after Grubauer save

In the five outings during the Calgary series, MacKinnon finished second on the team with eight points (three goals, five assists). He netted the first two goals and assisted on the game-winner in Game 3 and added another three-point performance (three assists) in Colorado's series-clinching Game 5 victory. 

Through three contests of the Round 2 meeting with the Sharks, MacKinnon has four points (two goals, two assists), including the game-winning goal in Game 2.

That tally was MacKinnon's fourth career postseason game-winner, and he is now tied with Sandis Ozolinsh and Peter Stastny for ninth in the franchise annals in the category. 

Through 21 career playoff games, MacKinnon has registered 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists). His 1.33 points-per-game average is the highest among active players and the fifth highest in Stanley Cup Playoffs history between skaters with at least 20 points.

Video: SJS@COL, Gm3: MacKinnon comes off bench and scores

MacKinnon has shown that he can consistently create scoring chances for Colorado, but his off-the-ice qualities are just as valuable.

The 6-foot, 205-pound center is a competitive player with the goal of winning at the forefront of everything he does, and he brings that element to the Avalanche locker room day in and day out.   

"The biggest thing for me as a coach is that I want our guys to play with passion, fire, energy and intensity, and that's what Nate brings," said Bednar. "To be honest with you, he's the guy that kind of makes sure that our team, besides the coaching staff, is fired up and ready to go and competing at a high enough level.

"He's the leader in that regard come practice time, he's a leader in that regard come game time. If he has something to say in that regard, then I'm more than happy to listen. He helps keep everyone accountable and that's what we need from him, and he certainly backs it up with his play."

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