Rantanen Rockets Back onto Avalanche Lineup

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A dazzling 7-3 win capped off the back-to-back series between the Colorado Avalanche and the Chicago Blackhawks. In a win of that magnitude, it can be difficult to pick out the highlights, but the biggest storyline going into this game was always going to be the return of Mikko Rantanen. After missing 16 games due to injury, Rantanen posted four points in only 10 minutes on ice in his first game back.

Rantanen was placed on IR back at the beginning of the Avalanche’s injury plague. He suffered a lower-body injury in an away game against the St. Louis Blues on October 21st.

The timing was terrible, as the Avalanche lost captain Gabriel Landeskog shortly thereafter. Rantanen and Landeskog make up 2/3 of the top line when healthy, with Nathan MacKinnon capping it off. The team missed their offensive presence, skidding into a losing streak until the team finally sorted out its depth options and battled back.

An Avalanche of Goals

While the Avalanche have continued to manage to find success even without these key pieces, this game against the Blackhawks proved what an impact Rantanen makes from a scoring standpoint. In the 10 minutes he played over the first two periods, he posted three assists and a goal.

He assisted on the first goal of the night with a beautiful feed to Nazem Kadri, a powerplay goal that changed the momentum of the game after the Blackhawks scored early in the first, shorthanded. He also assisted on the goals of familiar linemate MacKinnon in the first and tallied his third on Joonas Donskoi’s second goal of the night. His own goal came shortly into the second period on an incredible rebound.

A Quick Highlight Reel

10 Avalanche players registered a point, with two separate players tallying two goals: Kadri and Donskoi.

Recent AHL call-up T.J. Tynan registered his first NHL point with an assist on Tyson Jost’s goal in the second. Tynan continues to seek his first goal, but he’s been making the most of this opportunity with the Avalanche.

Ryan Graves has extended his point streak to three games, a new career-best. He didn’t decide to have back-to-back fights, but he did take a four-minute minor after an incidental high stick reopened the nasty cut he gave Andrew Shaw on Friday.

MacKinnon extended his point streak to seven games and set a new career-high in points per month with 25 in November. Only four Avalanche players in the history of the club have bested his points record going into December. He currently has 42 points so far this season.

Samuel Girard and Alex DeBrincat dropped gloves for a quick fight, which was an amusing moment. Girard clocks in at 5’10” and DeBrincat stands at only 5’7″. Hey, at least they’re staying within their height class, right?

This isn’t so much of a highlight as it is an observation, but I truly liked the way the defense played this game. It’s been an issue as of late, but the team played as a five-man unit on defense, holding the Blackhawks to 29 shots on goal. They had a few truly outstanding penalty kills as well, including a brief five on three. I’d like to see them continue building on the type of defense they showed today.

What’s Next?

The Avalanche now sit at second in the Central Division, still six points behind the Blues. As always, it’s important they continue to win, as the competition for the top spots in the Central continues to be fierce.

The team has a three-day break before they go on a short road trip that sees them battling the Leafs, Canadiens, and Bruins, before returning home to face off against the Flames.

The narrative is certainly shifting. It’s become less of a struggle to stay afloat amidst a patchy lineup and is now a display of scoring depth as players on every line give it their all to secure these crucial wins.

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