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Explosive Landeskog Taking Leadership Role with Surging Avs
The Colorado Avalanche have found their leader and he is a rookie.
For the second game in a row, Gabriel Landeskog took the responsibility of getting the Avalanche a much-needed win by carrying the team on his shoulders. In Colorado's 5-4 shootout win March 14 over the Buffalo Sabres, the Avs trailed 4-3 in the waning seconds. Colorado dominated the final minute as they tried to get the tying goal with goaltender Semyon Varlamov on the bench for an extra skater. However, Buffalo's defense was holding solid and when the Sabres cleared the puck down to the Colorado end with less than 15 seconds remaining, it appeared they would hold on for the win.
That's when Landeskog took over. After taking a quick pass in his own half of the ice, the explosive left wing accelerated at warp speed. He broke through the Buffalo defense and fired a shot at Ryan Miller that the Buffalo goalie stopped but could not control. Ryan O'Reilly fished out the rebound and shoveled it to the front of the net where Jamie McGinn, the Avs' Mr. Clutch, propelled the puck into the back of the net.
Landeskog's speed is the big factor for Colorado. Not only can he blow by opponents, he picks the right moments to do so. In the Avs' previous game against the Anaheim Ducks two nights earlier, Landeskog used his speed after taking a pass from defenseman Matt Hunwick to accelerate into the offensive zone and then blow a slap shot past Jonas Hiller for the overtime winner. Landeskog was sick before the game and exhausted after it, but when his team needed him most he made the play that won the game.
Landeskog scored his 20th goal on the power play in the win against the Sabres and he moved into a tie with Adam Henrique of the New Jersey Devils for the rookie scoring lead with 46 points. Landeskog is starting to hear whispers as veteran observers compare his physical gifts to legendary former Av superstar Peter Forsberg.
Landeskog is putting himself into a position where he will not only lead his team to a playoff spot - they are in 7th place in the Western Conference - he's also making himself the favorite for the Calder Trophy that goes to the league's rookie of the year. In addition to his scoring ability, Landeskog is responsible defensively. He is plus-19 on the season and he is averaging .64 points per game.
As the season roars down the stretch, the 19-year-old is playing with a veteran's poise and a star's finishing ability. With each passing game that his team needs so badly, Landeskog continues to step up his game.
NHL.com - Rookie scoring
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