Much more to Colorado’s deadly top line than MacKinnon

Oct 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Jan Rutta (44) defends against Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen (96) in the second period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

There is no doubt that Nathan MacKinnon is leading the way for the Avalanche this season, but despite his MVP-caliber efforts, it’s important to remember that he’s not doing it alone. Linemates Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog have had more than a little to do with MacKinnon’s epic numbers — and the Avalanche’s playoff chances.

While MacKinnon currently sits in second place in the NHL in scoring with 91 points (38 goals, 53 assists), his linemates have been productive as well. Mikko Rantanen, in his second full season, has quietly piled up an impressive 79 points (26 goals, 53 assists), which has him tied for 12th in the league. Rantanan may be the second-leading scorer on the Avalanche, but to put things in perspective, he would be the leading scorer on 22 of the other 30 NHL teams.

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is still only 25, but the line’s wily veteran currently has 56 points (24 goals, 32 assists), only nine points shy of his career-high 65. He’s closing in on his career-high in goals scored (26), as well.

There’s no question that when MacKinnon is on the ice, he makes everyone around him better, but no one player can will their team to the playoffs. Connor McDavid is third in the NHL in scoring with 90 points, and has done everything in his power to try and bring the Oilers back to the playoffs for the second straight year, but the production of his linemates isn’t even close to what Rantanen and Landeskog have generated. Even with the superstar talent of McDavid, Edmonton sits a whopping17 points out of the playoffs.

Without the fantastic seasons Rantanen and Landeskog are also having, MacKinnon’s wonderful efforts might have been be all for naught. Just as MacKinnon makes Landeskog and Rantanen better players, they do the same for him, allowing him to find open spaces all over the ice. Teams are now forced to focus on defending three forwards who can strike at anytime rather than just one.

Landeskog and MacKinnon have played together and grown together for four seasons now, so the chemistry between them is excellent, but the fact that in just their second season together, MacKinnon and Rantanen have also built such good chemistry that the line has become nearly unstoppable this season.

MacKinnon and Rantanen have already blown past their previous career highs for points scored in a season and almost certainly will add a handful more to their totals. Landeskog has nine more games to try and catch his career high for points and stands a good chance to surpass his high for goals scored in a season.

With only nine games remaining, the Avalanche are hanging on to the first wild-card spot and gaining on the teams ahead of them. MacKinnon may win the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player, but Rantanen’s deft touch around the net and Landeskog’s rare combination of skill, physicality and leadership provide the young and talented line’s soul.

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