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Frustration boils over for Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche

It’s not just the fans that are having trouble with the team’s recent struggles

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

With only one win in their previous nine games, it appears as though frustrations are starting to boil over for the Colorado Avalanche. After snapping a six game losing streak last Friday night with a 6-1 victory over the New York Rangers, the Avalanche have fallen back into their losing ways after dropping the first two games of their Canadian road trip.

It’s understandable that the team would be frustrated given how they played during the back to back in Winnipeg and Calgary. The Avalanche finished the two games out-shooting their opponents 76-37 but losing to the Jets and Flames 7-4 and 5-3 respectively. The Avs were dominant for most of the two games but came away without any points in the standings.

Wednesday night we saw first hand evidence of just how draining these losses have become.

Near the end of their loss in Calgary, the Sportsnet cameras caught Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon expressing frustration towards head coach Jared Bednar.

I’m sure the lip readers out there can tell what was being said.

This definitely isn’t something fans want to see during a game, but in fairness to MacKinnon, his line has been carrying the team for a season and a half so if the losses are starting to wear on him it’s completely understandable.

Along with Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, MacKinnon has been dominant all season. There have been only three games in the 44 the Avalanche have played that the top line has not tallied at least one goal. MacKinnon himself has been held pointless in only one of his last 16 games.

The big-3 was even more dominant that usual in the loss to Calgary. MacKinnon, Rantanen and Landeskog combined for an incredible 23 shots on net - the entire Flames team could only muster 16.

After a long stretch of scoring futility - the main reason for the six game losing streak to close 2018 - the Avalanche offense has come alive lately averaging more than four goals a game in their past four games. Unfortunately, it’s the goaltender that has let the team down.

Semyon Varlamov has not been good enough and Philipp Grubauer has been equally bad this season. As a team, the Avalanche have a sub .900 save percentage since the start of December. After an incredible October, in which Varlamov put up a .930 save percentage; the team’s goaltending simply hasn’t been good enough.

The last two games can be blamed on the netminders, but they’re far from the only problem. MacKinnon, Landeskog and Rantanen have scored 73 of the team’s 151 goals for this season. That’s an incredible 48% of the team’s offsense.

They’re a line on an island and if the Avalanche hope to get back to the playoffs, Joe Sakic is going to have to find them some help.

MacKinnon has been doing everything in his power to keep the team in the playoff race and his goalies have made only 25 saves over a two game span. Add to that the fact that he’s been carrying a disproportionate amount of the team’s offense and that’s bound to make even the most patient player frustrated. Was taking it out on Bednar in the middle of the game the best look for the 2018 Hart Trophy finalist? Probably not, but it’s absolutely understandable.

If nothing else, the outburst on the bench shows that the players are just as frustrated with recent results as the fans are. We might hear about dressing room blowups or players-only meetings, but to see the team’s star player show this kind of passion is a good sign.

Hopefully the team can channel this frustration in a positive way as the Avs continue their Canadian road trip with a stop in Montreal Saturday night. Two wins in the next three games would be a great way to salvage a trip that has not started the way the team or it’s fans would like.