Energy line: MacKinnon-led high group lifts Avs into 2nd spherical

DENVER — Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog considers his position the perfect in hockey.

That is no line, both. Only a tribute to his linemates.

The trio of Landeskog, speedy middle Nathan MacKinnon and sharpshooting proper winger Mikko Rantanen mixed for 9 targets and 15 assists throughout a four-game sweep of St. Louis within the opening spherical. It is the third best-of-seven collection sweep in franchise historical past, with the opposite two occasions — 1996 and ’01 — culminating with hoisting the Stanley Cup trophy.

And whereas that specific end line stays a distance off, the underside line stays this: The Avs are the odds-on favorites to get there largely on account of that high group.

“Each (MacKinnon) and Mikko have very excessive, excessive talent and are high skills within the league,” stated Landeskog, whose crew will face both Vegas or Minnesota within the subsequent spherical. “Not solely that however they work actually onerous. We’re making an attempt to continually work on our sport and research one another and study from one another. It’s positively enjoyable enjoying with these two guys.”

The chemistry did not occur in a single day. The three have been allowed to undergo their ups and downs, slumps and streaks with out worry of a breakup. That is an help to Jared Bednar: Landeskog stated the Avs coach by no means wavered, even when he did generally separate them in an effort to offer a spark on different strains.

They rewarded that religion this season with 70 targets and 113 assists as Colorado received the Presidents’ Trophy with the perfect file within the NHL to ensure home-ice benefit all through their postseason run.

“It comes from being affected person from a training employees’s perspective and letting us play collectively and letting us discover that chemistry and work on it, and trusting us to be that high line,” Landeskog stated. “All three of us wish to be a distinction maker and wish to drive our crew, drive the play.”

They have been definitely a handful for the Blues. MacKinnon led the way in which with six targets and three assists, whereas Landeskog added two targets and 6 assists. Rantanen chipped in six assists alongside along with his lone purpose in Recreation 4, which was a giant sigh of reduction after coming so shut all collection.

“It’s at all times good to attain,” stated Rantanen, who led the Avalanche in targets (30) and factors (66) in the course of the common season. “That’s what everyone loves after profitable.”

The 24-year-old Rantanen has been extremely reliable within the postseason, logging no less than a degree in 14 straight playoff video games.

“He’s at all times been so good and this 12 months he’s particularly been wonderful,” teammate Tyson Jost stated. “He’s a bit of bit underrated in that sense, the place he doesn’t get as a lot credit score as he deserves.”

That’s as a result of he occurs to play on the identical line as MacKinnon, who has 63 factors in 44 profession playoff video games for a 1.43 points-per-game common. It’s the fourth-highest mark in NHL postseason historical past (minimal 25 video games), trailing solely Wayne Gretzky (1.84), Mario Lemieux (1.61) and Barry Pederson (1.53).

“I don’t know if I’m at one other stage or pucks are entering into proper now,” stated the 25-year-old MacKinnon, who had a career-high, 15-game level streak this season. “I imply, all my targets are with nice screens in entrance. Landy, Mikko are beasts down low.”

Landeskog solely smiled when requested about being MacKinnon’s wingman on the ice.

“Being Nate’s wingman … it’s positively among the best jobs in hockey,” cracked Landeskog, who at 28 is in his ninth season as crew captain.

Landeskog is the grinder of the group and never afraid to combine it up. He recorded a “Gordie Howe” hat trick in Recreation 1, with a purpose, help and a combating main penalty. It was the primary one in Avalanche postseason historical past since Mike Ricci in 1997 towards Chicago.

Landeskog dropping the gloves and throwing punches — he was sticking up for Rantanen after successful — fired up the crew.

All a part of his job on a high line along with his two buddies.

“It’s been enjoyable to attending to know these two guys over the previous few years as gamers and clearly as folks,” Landeskog stated. “Hopefully we will proceed to get higher and higher as we go on.”

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Extra AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports activities

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