The Colorado Avalanche have been tirelessly soldiering on through their injury-riddled month of November, trying to remain as dominant as they were while fully healthy to start the season.
They went through their toughest slump while missing forwards Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog at the same time that goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz sat out with injury — but after gaining both goaltenders back earlier in the month, they also regained one of their most valuable offensive threats on Saturday night in a dominant, offensive-filled win over their divisional rivals from Chicago.
The Chicago Blackhawks threw 29 shots at Grubauer and tried giving an opportunity to both Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford, but it just wasn’t their night. Thanks to a four-point night from the returning Rantanen, the Avalanche rolled over Chicago with a dominant, forward-looking 7-3 win to extend their victory streak to three games heading into December.
Where to start? The Avalanche seemed to dominate from the start of the game to the finish, boasting two-goal nights from both Joonas Donskoi and Nazem Kadri to go with a goal and four points for Rantanen, a goal and three points for Nathan MacKinnon, and a fifth goal of the season for middle six prospect Tyson Jost. It was such a dominant night that even with Cale Makar’s third pointless game in his last four outings, Chicago still saw Robin Lehner get chased after just 14 shots on goal (and five goals against) — all within the first 25 minutes of game action, to boot. Then, the Avalanche would go on to score two more goals in Corey Crawford’s first five minutes in net, padding their lead by such an impressive amount that even a three-goal game for Chicago looked like a massacre.
And the goals? Were they ever impressive:
Watching Rantanen have such an impressive return to the lineup? Hard not to get excited by that, especially given that the team was coming off of their first outing against Chicago the night prior.
The Avalanche were able to benefit from fresh legs — literally — for Rantanen in a game where both teams were fatigued from a back-to-back home-and-home series, giving the Finnish sniper arguably the most favorable conditions possible to return to a lineup and get some action. It was a slightly disappointing outing for Grubauer, who fared worse against a fading Blackhawks lineup than Francouz had against Chicago and their fresh legs the night prior (on Blackhawks ice for Francouz, nonetheless) — but ultimately, it was a game that was hard to find fault with for anyone.
THE RANTANEN EFFECT
Mikko Rantanen’s return is, honestly, the most important part of the game. Bar none.
The Avalanche were a scary team at the start of the season, nearly unbeatable when fully healthy. And now that he has 16 points in 10 games — putting him on pace to finish the year with 105 points even after missing 16 games. That’s the kind of dominance that not only pushes teams to playoff contention, but carries them to the Stanley Cup.
Mikko Rantanen coming off IR pic.twitter.com/46cWCSiTWE— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) December 1, 2019
Will things undoubtedly be harder against teams that aren’t the Chicago Blackhawks? Of course. Chicago has been woefully poor this year, struggling to live up to the expectations everyone placed on them of being a potential bubble team.
But for now, it’s worth just reveling in the excitement of having Mikko back: