Nathan MacKinnon’s offensive numbers were down. His season ended prematurely with a broken foot at the beginning of March. The Colorado Avalanche regressed. One of the most dynamic young players in the game experienced the full impact of the dreaded sophomore slump.
After capturing the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie in 2013-14, when he scored 24 goals and 63 points during the regular season, the 19-year-old MacKinnon scored only 14 goals and 38 points this season.
Meanwhile, Colorado missed the playoffs, finishing 11th in the Western Conference.
“The whole team was kind of in a slump,” MacKinnon told The Chronicle Herald in Halifax.
“We weren’t playing well and we weren’t scoring. Things started going better for me but then I got hurt so it was kind of the perfect storm. But at the same time, I didn’t play well and do the things out there I think I can.
“It’s one season and sometimes it can be tough when it’s not going the way you want it to, but I try to stay as positive as I can. I’m pretty hard on myself so I’m already looking ahead to trying to prove to myself that I can be an impact player on our team.”
MacKinnon is currently with Canada’s world hockey championship team in the Czech Republic. He’s producing at a point-per-game rate, with three goals and five assists in eight games.
All season long, the Calgary Flames have defied the doubters. However, their surprising run could be reaching its end, now trailing the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 in this second round series.
On Friday, mistakes and an undisciplined penalty were the Flames’ undoing in a loss to the Ducks. Matt Beleskey scored the winner on a power play early in the third period of Game 4.
The Ducks can clinch a spot in the Western Conference final with a win on Sunday in Game 5.
Including the Stanley Cup Playoffs and regular season, the Ducks have won 21 straight games at Honda Center against the Flames dating to Game 3 of their first-round playoff series in 2006.
“It’s playoffs. You never know what’s going to happen,” Beleskey said. “We love going home. We love playing in front of our home fans, but I don’t think that whole streak thing matters at this point. It’s Game 5 of the playoffs. We need a big effort.”
Throughout the regular season, and even into these playoffs, the Flames provided numerous thrilling comebacks, and they will try to rely on that experience in this situation.
“We’ve just gotta believe,” said Flames forward Mikael Backlund, as per the Calgary Sun. “We’ve won three games in a row before, so we can do it again.
“The whole season, we’ve been coming back from some really tough mountains and we always seem to find a way to climb up on the top. This group never stops, just battles every day. Our work ethic and our character in this room is going to take us through these next couple of games.”
The Washington Capitals lost in overtime to the New York Rangers on Friday, although there was a controversial moment in the second period, when it appeared the Capitals had taken the lead.
Instead, after contact between Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Capitals forward Joel Ward and Rangers forward Derek Stepan, the goal was immediately waved off and the game remained scoreless going into the third period.
From CSN Washington:
Here’s an explanation from series officiating manager Rob Shick, via a pool reporter:
“The goaltender wasn’t allowed to play his position in the crease. Incidental contact [by Ward]. I support the call. Results in no goal, no penalty.”
A pivotal moment in the game, the Capitals disagreed with the call but seemed to have let it go.
“We felt obviously he was pushed in,” said Capitals head coach Barry Trotz, as per the Washington Post. “But they made the call and that was it. We just deal with it and move on.”
In what was a physical, chippy game on Friday, an undisciplined penalty proved costly for the Calgary Flames, who are now facing elimination.
At the end of the second period, Flames forward Joe Colborne got his stick up on Francois Beauchemin while trying to finish his check, resulting in a four-minute power play for the Ducks. And the Anaheim power play made Colborne and the Flames pay.
Just 1:11 into the third period, Matt Beleskey scored on that power play to give the Ducks the lead. That goal stood as the winner. Anaheim went on to win by a final score of 4-2, taking a 3-1 series lead.
“Frustrating,” Colborne told Sportsnet.ca. “Just trying to (walk) that line of being physical. I’m not going to comment on whether I liked (the call) or not, but that’s on me. I definitely let the boys down there.”
The Flames, who were also unsuccessful on a five-on-three power play in the third period when they were trailing by a goal, entered this series as the underdog. They’ll now need a massive comeback — they made a habit of doing that in third periods during the regular season — if they are to have any chance of getting back into this.
After falling behind a goal less than four minutes into the game, the Flames wasted no time battling back. The first six minutes featured three goals, with Sean Monahan and Micheal Ferland scoring 1:07 apart to give Calgary the lead.
The second period featured numerous turning points.
Frederik Andersen made a sprawling glove save on Johnny Gaudreau to keep it a one-goal game. It was a huge stop. Later in the period, Gaudreau was guilty of a turnover right in front of his own net, directly leading to Andrew Cogliano’s tying goal.
Game 5 goes Sunday in Anaheim.
Johnny Gaudreau had a brilliant chance to give the Calgary Flames a two-goal lead early in the second period, but it was taken away on a brilliant save from Frederik Andersen.
After making the initial save on the point shot, Andersen sprawled to his left to make a spectacular glove save on Gaudreau, with the Flames leading 2-1.
How important was that save?
Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano forced a Gaudreau turnover in the slot and scored to tie the game late in the second period.