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Central Intelligence: Rantanen finishes off historic first month for Avs

Forward ties Joe Sakic's franchise record for points, assists in month of October

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe / Wild.com

It's been a historic month for Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche. 

Named the NHL's First Star for the month of October, Rantanen led the League in scoring, posting 21 points. He was the only player in the League to reach 20 during October, outdistancing Boston's Patrice Bergeron and Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin by two points.

Of those 21 points, 16 came on assists, playing on the NHL's most explosive line with Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon. Both numbers tied Joe Sakic's franchise record for most points and assists during the season's opening month; Sakic accomplished the feat in 1996.

All of this -- or at least a lion's share of it -- before his 22nd birthday. Rantanen turned 22 on Monday.

"I knew I could play in the NHL but I never thought I would be playing on a line like this," Rantanen told the Denver Post. "I can't deny, it's been a lot of fun."

The line of Landeskog, MacKinnon and Rantanen has been explosive for more than a year now. Put together by Avs coach Jared Bednar at the beginning of last season, the grouping was one of the top lines in the NHL last year.

Rantanen, in his second full season in the League, posted 84 points. MacKinnon was a bonafide MVP candidate, scoring 39 goals among 97 points. Landeskog's 62 points were the most he'd had in nearly five years.

That group has picked up right where it left off.

Entering play on Oct. 30, the line had accounted for 24 of the Avs' 41 goals this season.

"I have to be happy with how the team is playing and how our line is able to help the team win," Rantanen said. "It's still early; we have to prove we can do it every night and be consistent."


Crawford back for Chicago

It took nearly a year, but the Chicago Blackhawks have their starting goaltender back in Corey Crawford, who missed significant time because of a concussion.

Crawford was a Vezina Trophy candidate early in the year last season, posting a 16-9-2 record with a 2.27 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage through Christmas. The Blackhawks were poised to make the postseason for a 10th consecutive season.

Then Crawford went down with his injury and did not play the rest of the season. Chicago fell off a cliff, finishing seventh in the seven-team Central Division, a full 16 points behind the Dallas Stars, who finished sixth. 

Crawford started this season on injured reserve but made his season debut on Oct. 18. It didn't take him long to look right at home in the crease; he gave up one goal in each of his second, third and fourth starts and a total of six goals in his first four games.

Crawford ended October on a rough note, but his return has the Blackhawks believing a return to the postseason is certainly possible. Chicago starts November with a 6-4-3 record and in the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.


Related:

Central Intelligence: A look around the Central Division

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