The Avalanche beat the Rangers 4-2

Even though the Avs were without Gabriel Landeskog, Devon Toews, and Bowen Byram, they still managed to post a dominant win against a Ranger squad that had won eight of their last ten, most in pretty emphatic fashion. But they were no match for an Avs side that has officially shaken off their early season malaise and now looks like a true Stanley Cup favorite.

So what gives? What’s changed? Is it a renewed commitment to solid team defense? Is it the return of Nathan MacKinnon, Devon Toews, and other injured players? Is it a function of truly obscene organizational depth on defense and at center? Is it a resurgent power play that no longer feasts exclusively off just the dregs of the NHL’s PK? Is it Bednar’s new hairstyle? Is it due to a return of passionate, responsible, smart, and physical hockey? No, really, is it Bednar’s hair? Is it because they’ve dramatically cut down on the boneheaded mistakes that plagued them at the beginning of the season? It has to be Bednar’s hair, right?

No matter the reason, even if Bednar lopped off most of the best coif to ever it behind an NHL bench, the Avs look completely different now than they did a month and a half ago. Thank the gods above!

We all knew MacKinnon’s return would be huge as he is still maybe the best player on terra firma. What we didn’t know is that the Avs were capable of ridiculous levels of production from every position on the ice, except goaltending, even minus #29.

Everyone has stepped up their game but no one has been quite as earth shatteringly spectacular as Cale Makar. That snipe from the blue line was so accurate Chris Kyle would be envious. BEHOLD MY POP CULTURE REFERENCE GENIUS!!! And it came from a ludicrously quick wrist shot emblematic of the godlike Joe Sakic. Makar is such a unique talent, the likes of which we multidecade hockey junkies have never seen. Here’s the scary thing…he’s actually getting better as his all around game is improving on an almost game by game level. He’s always been a generational offensive force but his defensive zone discipline and awareness has gotten so much better. He’ll never be a pit fighter Adam Foote type but his positional play rarely sees him out of place nor does he get caught unaware. His eyes are what makes him special, among many other things. Makar gives you the impression on both ends of the ice that he’s nearly omniscient, that he sees everything and can anticipate what everyone is going to do. His vison is not only unique, it’s becoming an essential cog in an Avs offensive machine. Cale Makar spectacular last night.

Another mug that’s stepped up is obviously Nazem Kadri. All he did last night was dish out three assists, ho hum, seen it already. Kadri’s production has been eye popping. He’s still 4th in the NHL in points (37), 2nd in assists (26), and he’s racked up 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) since Thanksgiving. He’s been a stabilizing influence while the Avs have been forced to nurse multiple injuries to many of its stars. Kadri’s production has made the absences of MacKinnon, Valeri Nichushkin, and J.T. Compher bearable. He’s playing his way into a $7-10 million/year contract, which shows how powerful a motivator a UFA season can be.

Even though he only had 9:10 of TOI, Justin Barron played well, was a +1, and was poised, confident, and oozed potential. He has this aura that the NHL isn’t too big, too fast, too physical for him to thrive. Losing Devon Toews for two weeks sucks but we’ll get to watch Barron develop and hopefully stick with the parent club.

Give it up for Nichushkin. He netted two goals, was +2, had oodles of powerplay minutes, and was a backchecking demon. His two way game is sweet to watch as is the edge work when he cuts towards the net. The one man breakaway at the end was incredible. Kadri wins the faceoff, Nichushkin ins the mad scramble for the puck, Nichushkin wins the skating contest, Nichushkin wins the shootout/breakaway, the Avs win 4-2. Nuke showed off combustible speed that’s almost unfair from 6’4", 210 pound man.

The rapid ascendency of Nichushkin, Kadri, and Burakovsky has made the Avs #2 line just downright lethal. In the past, the Avs have been top heavy in terms of production, with the #1 line of Landeskog, MacKinnon, and Rantanen providing 50-60% of the scoring. Now the second line of primarily Nichushkin, Kadri, and Burakovsky is pumping in 32 of the Avs 112 total goals, 41 of 190 total assists, 73 of 302 total points. That’s roughly 20-30% of the Avs total production. Yes, the Avs have been banged up so the #1 line vs #2 line paradigm has been skewed but what these numbers show is the Avs now have enough scoring depth to be an absolute monster come playoff time. Add the fact Nichushkin, Kadri, and Burakovsky are all playing with more physicality than ever before, and smart physicality, not dumb burly chested lumberjack physicality that leads to penalties and suspensions (eh hem Kadri, eh hem). Their checks and hits have been timely, measured, and rarely out of bounds. Even the notoriously unguided missile that is Nazem Kadri has been far more judicious in doling out punishment to the other team. This will pay off handsomely in the playoffs. is a fan community, allowing members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Colorado Avalanche and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editors of