Even though Cale Makar helped literally push the Colorado Avalanche over the goal line in OT and stole the show with his record-setting 23 shot attempts, he was not the best player in burgundy and blue Thursday night. That title belongs to the heart and soul of the Avalanche and who Makar said after Game 2 is “probably the best player in the world” — Nathan Mackinnon.
MacKinnon was all over the ice last night, as best demonstrated by his event map as detailed by Natural Stat Trick.
Just like in Game 1, the Avalanche star opened the scoring early, this time flying down the left wing before ripping a shot past Game 2 hero and Nashville Predators goaltender Connor Ingram for the only tally in regulation the Avs could muster.
While this electrifying goal is sure to be the main MacKinnon memory from this game, a big hit is what particularly sticks out in my mind from this complete performance. At the end of a sluggish first period where the Avalanche were out-shot 13-11 by the Predators, MacKinnon absolutely laid the wood on Jeremy Lauzon of the Predators, jolting the crowd out of their seats and giving the Avalanche a moment to build on going into the locker room.
Nathan MacKinnon Jeremy Lauzon. #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/Okb0ZAxa6v— Casey Cheatum (@CaseyCheatum) May 6, 2022
The Corsi chart (the difference in shot attempts) tells the story of how the ice tilted heavily towards the Avalanche from that hit onward, proving that his contributions to winning go far beyond putting the puck in the back of the net.
MacKinnon finished last night with 36 shot attempts directed at the Predators' net versus just 13 fired at Darcy Kuemper while he was on the ice, with sometimes linemate Valeri Nichushkin being the only Avs forward with a higher Corsi for with 37. According to Natural Stat Trick, while MacKinnon was on the ice at 5-on-5, there were 1.31 expected goals, hinting that the Predators were lucky to get out of that game only allowing one goal to the Avalanche’s resident force of nature.
Nathan Mackinnon has now played in 52 career playoff games, and he has been accounted for 73 points (31 goals, 42 assists) in the most high-pressure moments that hockey has to offer, averaging 1.4 points every time he steps on a playoff ice sheet. Amongst players who have played as many playoff games as Mackinnon has, he ranks third all-time in points per playoff game, behind two guys you may have heard of: Wayne Gretzky (1.83 points/game) and Mario Lemieux (1.6 points/game). Plenty of Connor McDavid fans probably raised an eyebrow at Makar’s “best player in the world” quote from last night, but when you keep company like that during the moments that matter most while inspiring your teammates with a physical 200-foot game, it’s difficult to argue against the notion that MacKinnon is the best hockey player on Earth.