Analysis: Top-line struggles explains the Avalanche’s eight-game losing streak

Toronto’s top forwards and its supporting offensive cast easily outplayed the Avalanche and its best players Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center. In a game featuring three point-per-game players on each side, the Maple Leafs won in a landslide.
Colorado’s top line of center Nathan MacKinnon and wingers Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen were pointless with just two combined shots, while the Maple Leafs’ “Big Three” of Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitchell Marner had six shots and six points and teammates Kasperi Kapanen and Nazem Kadri each had two goals.

In the Avs’ eighth consecutive loss, the MacKinnon line might have been the big problem — right alongside the penalty-killing units that allowed three goals within a span of 1:49. MacKinnon had just two shots against the Leafs and Landeskog and Rantanen had none. During Colorado’s eight-game losing streak, MacKinnon has just four points (two goals) while Landeskog only has three points (no goals) and Rantanen just two points (one goal).

Clearly, the Avs’ dramatic fall from being tied for first place in the Western Conference with Nashville on Dec. 7 to being tied with Arizona for 11th after Tuesday’s 5-2 loss now stems from the reduced production of the team’s best asset — the MGM Line. Colorado is an NHL-worst 5-16-6 since Dec. 7, when it was 17-7-5 and seemingly destined for its second straight playoff appearance and only its fourth in 11 years.

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Rantanen and MacKinnon are fifth and sixth in NHL scoring, respectively, and Landeskog is 13th in goals, but the all all-star line failed to match Wholesale nhl jerseys
Toronto’s superstars Tuesday. Avs coach Jared Bednar concurred that the MGM Line wasn’t good enough against the Leafs.

“We had enough other guys going that I felt like we were in position to win the hockey game, (notwithstanding) the penalty kill and what it was and the penalties that we took,” Bednar said.

Matthews, who had a goal and two assists against the Avs, said this about Colorado’s top line after his team improved to 18-7-2 on the road: “They’re so good at spreading you out, especially in the zone. They’ll get behind your net. Rantanen or MacKinnon will find each other, and different seams and they’ll move around well. I think just keep them to the outside as much as possible. They’re too good of a line that they’re gonna get a couple chances in the game.”

Matthews was right. They are good line. And they only got a couple chances Tuesday.

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