MacKinnon: Avs must find how to break through

The impressive postseason exploits of scoring machine Nathan MacKinnon and rookie phenom Cale Makar weren’t quite enough to stage a breakthrough for the Colorado Avalanche.

Once again, the Avalanche were eliminated in a second-round series courtesy of a Game 7 loss. Last season’s loss stung. This one was even more crushing. Colorado rallied from a 3-1 series deficit against Dallas before losing Game 7 5-4 in overtime.

A quick message from MacKinnon to the front office: Don’t change much.

“If we have the exact same team next year, I feel like we can win it next year,” said MacKinnon, whose team hasn’t been to the Western Conference finals since 2002. “Love the group of guys we have.”

A glut of injuries didn’t help Colorado’s postseason cause. The Avalanche turned to third-string goaltender Michael Hutchinson against the Stars with Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz sidelined. In addition, they were missing defenseman Erik Johnson along with forwards Joonas Donskoi and Matt Calvert. For Game 7, they also didn’t have blueliner Conor Timmins or captain Gabriel Landeskog, who was unable to go after suffering a cut on his right leg when he was clipped by a skate in Game 6.”I would’ve like to see our team fully healthy, that’s for sure,” said MacKinnon, whose team was knocked out by San Jose last season. “It just sucks we caught the injury bug again. It stings.”

MacKinnon followed up a remarkable regular season — he’s a candidate for the league’s MVP honors — with an even more memorable playoffs. The 25-year-old finished with 25 postseason points (nine goals, 16 assists), which was the most by an Avalanche player in a single playoff year since Peter Forsberg had 27 in 2002.

What’s more, MacKinnon had at least a point in a franchise-record 14 straight games — a streak that ended in Game 7 against the Stars.

“In my opinion, he’s probably the best player in the world right now,” said forward Vladislav Namestnikov, whose team outscored Dallas 29-28 in the series. “The things he does are unbelievable.”

Makar was second among NHL rookies in scoring during the regular season with 50 points (12 goals, 38 assists) in 57 games. He’s a finalist for the Calder Trophy awarded to the league’s top rookie.

In the postseason, the defenseman elevated his game to another level with 15 points.

“He was really good, borderline outstanding,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar. “I can go through our lineup, there are guys who stepped up at different times.”

Hence the reason MacKinnon doesn’t see a big need for general manager Joe Sakic to overhaul the roster.

“I know it’s not the Cup final or anything, but we felt like we could win,” MacKinnon said. “We’ve got to find a way to break through. There’s no moral victories here. We came here to win and we didn’t get the job done.”

Regardless, Colorado’s additions fit in quite nicely this season. The offseason acquisitions of Andre Burakovsky, Nazem Kadri, Donskoi and Valeri Nichushkin accounted for nearly 30% of the team’s goals in the regular season. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare also came up big, along with Namestnikov, who was acquired in a February trade.

Namestnikov had two goals in Game 7 on Friday, while Burakovsky and Kadri also scored. Kadri’s six power-play goals tied Sakic (1996) for second most in franchise history for a playoff season.

And despite MacKinnon’s feelings about the roster, it is likely that Colorado will remain active this offseason. Forward Taylor Hall, a former league MVP who will be among the most attractive free agents, could be among the Avalanche’s targets.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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