MacKinnon among NHL elite in playoff scoring with Avalanche

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Nathan MacKinnon is producing offense in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at a pace better than all but the greatest players in NHL history. We’re talking all but the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr.

The Colorado Avalanche center has scored 66 points (28 goals, 38 assists) in 45 playoff games in his NHL career entering Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Second Round against the Vegas Golden Knights in Denver on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS). Colorado leads the best-of-7 series 1-0.

That means MacKinnon is averaging 0.62 goals, 0.84 assists and 1.47 points per game in the playoffs.

The only players who have played at least 45 playoff games and averaged more than 0.62 goals per game are Lemieux (0.71) and Mike Bossy (0.66). Maurice Richard also averaged 0.62 goals per game.

The only players who have played at least 45 playoff games and averaged more than 0.84 assists per game are Gretzky (1.25), Lemieux (0.90) and Orr (0.89).

The only players who have played at least 45 playoff games and averaged more than 1.47 points per game are Gretzky (1.84) and Lemieux (1.61).

“Some players rise whenever the tide rises,” TSN analyst and former NHL forward Ray Ferraro said of MacKinnon. “It doesn’t seem like there’s a moment he shies away from or can’t succeed in, and there’s been lots of great players over the course of time that are great playoff players, and there’s others that aren’t.”

MacKinnon is producing at a significantly higher rate than in the regular season, where he averages 0.37 goals, 0.61 assists and 0.98 points per game, and this is a player who has excelled in the regular season. He scored 65 points (20 goal, 45 assists) this season, eighth in the NHL, even though he missed eight games due to injury.

When he scored twice in a 7-1 win against Vegas in Game 1 on Sunday, he became the sixth player in NHL history to score eight goals in his team’s first five playoff game in a season, joining Newsy Lalonde (11; Montreal Canadiens, 1919), Steve Payne (nine; Minnesota North Stars, 1981), Bobby Schmautz (eight; Boston Bruins, 1977) , Dino Ciccarelli (eight; Washington Capitals, 1990) and Ferraro (eight; New York Islanders, 1993).

Video: VGK@COL, Gm1: MacKinnon goes five-hole to extend lead

MacKinnon entered Tuesday with three more goals than anyone else in the NHL, and with 12 points, was tied for the playoff scoring lead with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov (three goals, nine assists).

“I don’t think it’s just a hot streak,” Ferraro said. “I do think he can continue to do what he’s doing. He’s not going to get four points every night, but I don’t see why all of a sudden he’s going to run dry. … It looks to me like when he gets the puck, he’s going downhill. Like, the speed and the power, it jumps out of your TV at you.”

MacKinnon has a strong supporting cast.

Colorado’s top line of MacKinnon with forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen is one of the best in the League, rivaled by perhaps Boston’s top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak in the way the players complement each other.

Led by Cale Makar, Colorado’s defense makes the most of the forwards’ talent.

“MacKinnon can be the fastest guy in the world, but if he’s starting from a standstill all the time, he’s not the fastest guy,” Ferraro said. “Those guys get them the puck at the right time, at the right moment, in stride, and that allows them to play that much quicker.

“Like, they’re an impressive, impressive team.”

Ferraro compared MacKinnon’s determination to improve to that of a young Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain. Crosby, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, and MacKinnon, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, are from Nova Scotia and train together.

Though Ferraro said he is mesmerized by the skating of MacKinnon and Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, it’s for different reasons.

“In Connor’s skating, there’s just an elegance to it,” Ferraro said. “It’s a beautiful, beautiful stride. And with MacKinnon, to me, it’s just so powerful. It’s like he just chews the ice up.”

MacKinnon is a force all his own.

“He can beat you different ways that other people just can’t,” Ferraro said. “Clearly, he can skate around you, and if he wants, it looks like he can go right over top of you. And there’s not many players that are even built that way.

“And you look at the hands that he has. Honestly, I find it mesmerizing when he skates up the ice at whatever speed he’s going, and his hands are moving so fast. Like, it’s remarkable how fast he stickhandles the puck, and that’s what he does, the main thing he does that other people can’t do.”

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