Back when Matt Duchene skated on a line with Ryan O’Reilly, the plays they created together were magical. The two were fast, young and skilled, but what really set them apart was their ability to read the game at a higher level, putting them on the same page and creating some dynamic scoring chances. Recently, Duchene has been playing with Alex Tanguay on the opposite wing and it has been reminiscent of the old O’Reilly-Duchene duo. Tanguay’s ability to see the game at such a high level and create chances for his teammates helps Duchene’s game immensely and has proven to be a dangerous combination in the most recent Avalanche games.

When the Colorado Avalanche traded O’Reilly last summer, they lost one of the best two-way players in the league as well as one of the more intelligent offensive minds around. The way O’Reilly sees the game is extraordinary, even for the NHL, and it was evident every time he would move the puck while he was in Denver. The plays he made here were creative and unique – some would even go as far as saying they were genius. These brilliant plays often looked even better because at the other end of them, typically, was Matt Duchene with an additional great idea and well executed play. With O’Reilly’s ability to facilitate and Duchene’s great skill, the two created an offensive threat that was extremely dangerous for any opposition.

Now that the dust has settled from the trade and the Avalanche have figured out how to succeed without O’Reilly, there is a new duo that is reminiscent of the old Factor and Dutchy combo. Recently, head coach Patrick Roy began using Matt Duchene on a line with Alex Tanguay and Nathan MacKinnon and it has proven to be effective in the offensive end. Of course, having Duchene and MacKinnon together on one line is going to make one of the most threatening offensive combinations in the NHL, but adding Tanguay to the mix adds a uniquely high and dangerous hockey IQ.

In the 2014-15 season, Tanguay produced 55 points in 80 games (22g 33a) on an average of 1.3 shots on goal per game. In 32 games this season, Tanguay’s production has been disappointing, tallying two goals and 12 assists so far. Tanguay has seemingly stopped shooting the puck this year as well, averaging only .875 shots per game. Among all of the forwards on the current roster, only Chris Wagner, who has played in 13 games for the Avalanche this season, has less shots on goal than Tanguay. However, despite the lower numbers, Tanguay’s ability to find his teammates and execute difficult passes still makes the 36-year-old an effective offensive player and an important piece to this Avalanche squad.

“He’s an amazing passer he sees the ice really well. I can kind of tell what he is going to do before he does it because he sees things so clearly,” Duchene said about playing with Tanguay. “Being able to anticipate with him is a big key because if you can read him you are going to be getting a lot of great looks. He makes guys around him better with his hands and his passing. Always a fun guy to play with, I have always enjoyed playing with him throughout my career.”

Watching Duchene and Tanguay work together in the offensive zone, one can clearly see that there is a higher level of thought at work. Much like when he skated with O’Reilly, Duchene is thriving with a player as cerebral as Tanguay.

“They are similar passers,” Duchene said about the comparison between having O’Reilly and Tanguay as line mates. “I think he and I like the give-and-go game. Nate makes good plays too obviously, but with the two of us, the give-and-go, the picks and the different changes of pace, I have always played well with guys like that.”

Tanguay’s ability to think the game is beneficial for guys like Duchene and is very similar to that of O’Reilly, with whom Duchene found much success in the past. The almost genius level of play and teamwork between the two is spectacular to watch. Sure, the numbers Tanguay has been producing this season are less than ideal, but much of what he brings to the game is not quantifiable. The measurable parts of the game should definitely improve for Tanguay on this line. Both Duchene and MacKinnon are guys who can take full advantage of the opportunities Tanguay will provide, which should ultimately improve the statistics for all three.

Tanguay will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, potentially ending the career of this Avalanche great. He has played 16 seasons in the NHL, nine in an Avalanche sweater. Tanguay has scored 277 goals and 565 assists in 1,050 NHL games. On this line, there will certainly be more to come.