Avalanche Lean on Power Play During Recent Surge

The Hockey Writers

With the All-Star Game just around the corner, the Colorado Avalanche are in the midst of a pretty successful stretch. They have won seven of their last nine games, pushing them to the second-best record in the Western Conference at 32-14-3.

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A driving force behind the recent run of success has been the power play, as the squad has racked up 10 power-play goals in its last nine contests. The success with the man advantage has bumped the Avalanche into a tie for sixth in the NHL in power-play percentage (25.7). Colorado’s 47 power-play goals are also tied the most in the league with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here’s a look at what’s been working for the Avs with the man-advantage.

MacKinnon Steers the Ship

Nathan MacKinnon is in the middle of the best season of his career – one that could definitely earn his first Hart Trophy. Through the first 49 games this season, his 53 assists are tied for most in the NHL with the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov, and MacKinnon’s 84 points are just one short of Kucherov’s league-leading 85. Barring injury, MacKinnon should obliterate his career best of 111 points, set last season.

Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

For as good as MacKinnon has been all season in all situations, he’s been the driving force behind the power play’s success as he boasts seven goals and 25 assists with the man advantage. If he had never scored an even strength point this season, those 32 power play points would still make him Colorado’s fifth-leading scorer.

Related: Avalanche’s MacKinnon on Another Historic Run

It’s no coincidence that the Avalanche power play is rocking while MacKinnon is in the midst of a career season. Both MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen average nearly five minutes of power-play time per game. Those are two of the deadliest offensive players in the NHL, and giving them that much time per game with a man advantage is bound to garner some results. MacKinnon has anchored that unit through the team’s first 49 games, and that damage will continue if opponents keep giving Colorado that many opportunities.

Avalanche Have Everybody Involved

For as much impact as MacKinnon has had on the power play, Colorado has actually gotten contributions from a number of different players. While the group of MacKinnon, Rantanen, Valeri Nichushkin, and Cale Makar and have eaten up the most minutes on the power play, the others are making the most of their chances. A dozen different players have recorded a point on the power play this season, and nine of those have scored goals.

Valeri Nichushkin Colorado Avalanche
Valeri Nichushkin, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Getting contributions from multiple players on multiple lines has helped push the Avs. Newcomers Ryan Johansen and Jonathan Drouin have used the man advantage to develop some confidence and chemistry in their first season in Colorado. Those two have combined for 21 goals this season, and eight of them have come during their limited minutes on the power play. Drouin also has seven power-play assists as he is quietly having one of his best seasons.

Related: Nichushkin Might Be Avalanche’s Most Important Player in 2023-24

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The top unit has obviously been the most potent, but it isn’t just one person racking up all the points. Everybody is contributing there, too. While MacKinnon’s power-play points lead the team, Nichushkin’s 13 power-play goals are second in the NHL, and he’s scored a pair of power play goals in the same game twice this season. MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Makar all have at least 20 power-play assists, as well. The top unit has been extremely successful, but having capable players on the second unit has been an invaluable asset to the team’s success.

Avalanche Need Power Play in Postseason

Like many teams, Colorado needs a their successful power play to be a staple if they want to make a deep run into the postseason. The good news is that they’ve already established themselves as a real threat to get numerous chances every night. The Avs have spent the most time on the power play in the NHL this season, logging 291:20 with the man advantage — almost six minutes per contest. The Avs have had 183 chances on the power play – second only to the Detroit Red Wings’ 184 for most in the NHL.

Cale Makar Colorado Avalanche
Cale Makar. Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Those statistics will be a trend the Avalanche will welcome when the playoffs roll around. The power play stunk in Colorado’s first-round playoff exit to the Seattle Kraken last season, as the team went just two-for-18 across the seven games. Colorado’s longest stretch without a power-play goal this season is four games – and that was in the first four games of the season. Things generally tighten up once the playoffs roll around, but if the Avs can get close to the roughly four chances per game they’re getting in the regular season, the power play should be a big weapon for them.

Related: 5 Factors Behind the Avalanche’s Perfect Start to 2023-24

The key to any power play is consistency, and things are clicking right now. Colorado is 10-3 in its last 13 games, and have scored 59 goals over that span, with a whopping 15 of those goals coming on the power play. As long as the Avalanche keep getting consistent chances with the man advantage – they have had fewer than three power-play opportunities in just 11 games this season – their offense is going to be tough to stop.

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