Avalanche grind out rugged win over Wild without MacKinnon

Even with the Avalanche as depleted as they are, the Wild probably wanted Tuesday’s game to be a mucking, grinding affair. Overall, the Wild got their wish, but the Avalanche ended up winning 2-1.

In what ended up becoming a bit of a goalie duel, Philipp Grubauer got the upper hand over Cam Talbot, but both were sharp. Then again, space wasn’t always easy to come by.

That’s not how Colorado always prefers it, but being able to win tight, playoff-type games bodes well for a team that hopes to make a deep postseason plunge.

Star power of Makar on display

With Nathan MacKinnon added to a growing Avalanche injury list, Colorado called upon other top players against the Wild. That doesn’t mean it was always easy for the Avs to show off their depth on Tuesday night.

Sometimes, Cale Makar made it look easy, though. In doing so, Makar also made it look harder for his opponents.

(That’s some And1 Mixtape-level stuff.)

Early on vs. the Wild, the Avalanche found ways to look like the Avalanche we know and enjoy watching, even with MacKinnon on the shelf. Eventually, the Wild were able to grind things down to halt, particularly during a stretch of time during the second period.

Makar put forth a nice effort, and so did Mikko Rantanen, who fired five shots on goal. Without MacKinnon, Devon Toews, and others — Ryan Graves looked a little shaken up in this one — Colorado may need to grind a bit for victories.

If nothing else, they’ve built up experience fighting through injuries during recent seasons. Granted, it doesn’t get bigger than losing MacKinnon, so they need to hope his week-to-week status doesn’t translate to months.

Kaprizov: the K.I.S.S. solution to the Wild’s power play?

Heading into Tuesday, the Wild’s power play only scored two goals on 39 opportunities, which translates to a pitiful 5.13-percent success rate. There were times when the Wild’s PP unit looked pretty mild on Tuesday, too.

When it comes to even-strength, the Wild are stout. Even through a frustrating 2019-20 season, the Wild quietly clamped down on opponents.

But in the grind of a season, sometimes it’s nice to score “easy” goals. Relatively speaking, the power play is where you can get those “easy” ones.

Yet, when you look at the Wild’s personnel, you mostly see skilled defensemen, grindy forwards, and … well, Kirill Kaprizov. In extending his power-play shift, Kaprizov scored an all-too-rare Wild goal on the PP:

Normally, it’s a bad idea to “telegraph” things on a power play. You can even gum up the works by leaning too much on Alex Ovechkin shooting from his vaunted office. Instead, it’s better to use spacing, skill, and passing to break coverage and force mistakes.

That said, while the Wild’s power play languishes, maybe they really show make it the Kaprizov show? Either way, the Wild could make life a lot easier for themselves if they can merely bump that man advantage to a competent level.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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