It isn’t the Avalanche getting off to a losing start that is surprising. It’s hard to believe they were going to sneak up on teams like last season that helped them get off to a great start for months.
It’s surprising to know Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon did not score a goal this season prior to last night’s Avalanche’s game with the Islanders. Normally, great players like him don’t take that long to score a goal. It would take at least five games at the latest to score a goal.
It took MacKinnon until the 11th game of the season for him to finally score. His two goals set the stage for the Avalanche to celebrate a 5-0 rout of the Islanders last night at the Pepsi Center.
Maybe last night could get MacKinnon and the Avalanche going. It is no secret when he makes plays on offense, his team wins. It showed last year in their playoff series against the Wild when he scored two goals and dished out eight assists in their three postseason wins. It can’t be coincidence anymore that his rough start has played a role in the team’s rough start.
The second-year Avalanche star has to be privately stunned that he has been held scoreless. That’s what happens when everything came easy for him last year. That’s what happens when he created high standards for himself after he scored 24 goals and tallied 29 assists last season as a rookie.
All of sudden, the game got harder. Teams make adjustments on him. It’s something he knows he has to figure it out sooner or later.
That shouldn’t be a problem for MacKinnon. He is talented enough where he can figure it out. This is why he or Avalanche coach Patrick Roy has not been alarmed about what’s going on. It was going to be a matter of time until he picks it up.
People forget the reigning Calder Trophy winner is only 19 years old. What he did last year at 18 years old is impressive. It’s hard for any athlete to make an impact in the pros of any sport at that age. Even when a rookie does so well, he was going to take a step back the following year. That’s where sometimes sports fans lose perspective in a must-win sports world we live in.
MacKinnon’s even-kneel perspective is an advantage for him. He doesn’t think or overreact to his struggles. He works on his game each day in practice. He knows it will pay off. That’s why Roy wasn’t worried about his young star’s confidence or play at all.
That can’t be easy for most players. Sports is all about confidence. Struggles can put a player into a rut where he loses his confidence altogether. Often times, sports can be mental.
It’s early to say sophomore slump when it comes to MacKinnon. We are not even halfway to the season to say that. It’s crazy some media members would use that buzzword to describe his struggles.
That’s why it’s a long season. Players of MacKinnon’s caliber don’t struggle the entire season. Great players go through rough starts or slump in the middle of season, but it doesn’t last forever.
When a player is prone to slumps, it takes one goal to get it going. MacKinnon getting the second goal of last night’s game may have been a byproduct on him scoring his first goal of last night’s game. Maybe he has something going for him heading to the next game.
MacKinnon hasn’t acknowledged his slump, but deep down, he has to be relieved it’s over for one night. He doesn’t have to answer questions about what’s wrong with him. No one has to talk about his struggles.
The 19-year-old star has handled everything with class. It’s what the Avs like about him. It’s why they did not hesitate drafting him as the #1 pick last year. They know the moment is not big for him. That’s why he was ready to handle the postseason. That’s why he does not let a slump get to him.
The Avs have a star that knows how to handle everything at his way.
That’s why MacKinnon is a guy to build around.
Contact or Follow Leslie Monteiro: @LightRodWriter
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Leslie is a contributor for Lightning Rod Sports. He covered high school sports in Bergen County out in North Jersey, and has written op-ed columns on sports such as Bleacher Report and NY Sports Digest.