SAN JOSE – Nathan MacKinnon’s first round brilliance against Calgary was dubbed by many as his “coming out party.”
Forgive MacKinnon for being unsure whether it’s a compliment or an insult.
“I don’t know, I was up for MVP last year, so I don’t feel like I’m just coming out,” shrugged MacKinnon, before breaking into a chuckle.
“Maybe you should just turn on some Avs games more, I don’t know.”
Granted, MacKinnon has been on the national radar since he was a junior star picked first overall in 2013.
A finalist for the Hart Trophy last year, he finished with 99 points this season and has long been one of the league’s fastest and most dominant players.
However, by taking centre stage in a nationally televised series in which his team advanced for the first time in over a decade, there’s certainly increased buzz about the 23-year-old centre.
“Maybe it is [a coming out party] for some people that don’t watch the Avs,” said the humble native of Cole Harbour, N.S. whose Avalanche face San Jose in Game 2 Sunday afternoon, down 1-0 in the series.
“Obviously being on Sportsnet it’s a big stage and a lot of Canadians watched me play. But it wasn’t just me, Mikko [Rantanen] led our team in points. He had a great series. Obviously, Gabe [Landeskog] was awesome, Tyson [Barrie], Cale [Makar], everybody was awesome.
Grubi [Philipp Grubauer] was the backbone of our team.
I don’t think it was a coming out party – maybe more people watched it, but that’s it.”
Landeskog playfully scoffed at the notion his linemate’s play is somehow a revelation.
“It’s us not usually playing this time of year – that’s probably what it is,” said MacKinnon’s linemate and captain.
“The playoffs are obviously where you really make your mark and your career and when guys can blossom. It shouldn’t be surprising to anybody Nate is this good.
“That’s the kind of Nate we see day in and day out – he’s a world class player and in my opinion, he’s top 3 in the league. There’s not a whole lot of guys that can do what he does at that speed.
“Hopefully it’s not a surprise to many people anymore and if it is that’s fine with us. Hopefully, that means we’ve had good results go our way.”
Half an hour before the Sharks skate there was Pavelski on the ice, skating alone.
Not Joe, their injured captain, but his eight-year-old son Nate, who regularly hits the ice before Sharks practices on weekends.
Dad came out to watch for a few minutes before disappearing once the media spotted him.
Pavelski hasn’t skated or spoken to the media since he fell awkwardly onto his head and lost consciousness Tuesday night to draw the controversial five-minute major that helped with Game 7 for the Sharks.
He’s still “day-to-day” with his head injury and his teammates speak often of how driven they are to play long enough for him to return to action.