tweet this Content by Twitter, Facebook; Reddit or other Networks, thanks!
Nathan MacKinnon returned to full form Sunday, a day before the Avalanche opens the playoffs with a Game 1 series against the St. Louis Blues at Ball Arena. MacKinnon, the Avs’ top-line center and perennial Hart Trophy candidate, missed four of the last five regular-season games to minor injuries.
He said he’s ready to go for Monday’s opener, back centering wingers Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen on arguably the NHL’s most dangerous line.
“I want to play every game. Obviously, I had to take care of some little things. Nothing major,” MacKinnon said after Sunday’s practice at Ball Arena. “I just wanted to be healthy come Game 1. Got some rest and some good treatment and I’m feeling good.”
MacKinnon, who missed eight games overall in the regular season, finished eighth in NHL scoring with 65 points. He was fourth in points-per-game at 1.35. Rantanen overtook the scratched MacKinnon as the Avs’ leading scorer with two assists in Thursday’s regular-season finale. Rantanen ended tied for fifth in points-per-game at 1.27.
Rantanen finished first in the league in plus-minus with a plus-30 rating and is likely now the Avs’ best Hart Trophy candidate. The MVP award is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, which has a Thursday deadline to cast its ballots.
MacKinnon finished second in the Hart Trophy race in 2018 and 2020. He thinks Rantanen should be considered this year.
“Every year he’s getting better,” MacKinnon said of the 24-year-old Rantanen, who is 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. “He takes everything so serious off the ice, in terms of his body, working on his game. He’s just improving all the time. A guy that big, it might take a couple years to grow into your frame, to fill out. He’s such a beast. I’m so happy we have him on our side for the playoffs, for sure.”
Landeskog said he would give Rantanen a Hart Trophy vote if he had one.
“Mikko’s been one of our most consistent players all year and he’s a factor every time he steps on that ice,” Landeskog said. “This year, it seems like he’s taken it upon himself to not just be an elite passer but also a finisher as well. Thirty goals in (52 games) — that’s a pretty impressive pace.”