Expectations on MacKinnon's first playoffs
April, 17, 2014
By Craig Custance | ESPN Insider
AP Photo/Jack DempseyNathan MacKinnon scored 63 points in 2013-14, and his ice time had increased by season's end.DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy was a 20-year-old when he first had the opportunity to play in the NHL playoffs, backstopping the Montreal Canadiens. For reasons he can't remember now -- because he estimates he weighed about 165 pounds -- he was sitting in the sauna one day in preparation for the 1986 postseason.
He noticed Larry Robinson coming to join him, and he realized the veteran defenseman had already showered. Robinson was coming for a conversation.
"I said, He's not coming for a sauna, he's coming to talk to me," Roy said in telling the story after Wednesday's practice. "He said: 'Hey kid. The only thing I’m asking -- no bad goals.' From the first game, I was not thinking about winning the Stanley Cup, I was thinking 'no bad goals.'"
For Roy, it eased the pressure. Here was a veteran with five Stanley Cup rings telling him he didn't have to do anything by himself. He was part of a team. If he made the saves he needed to make, his teammates would take care of the rest.
"I understood what the players wanted," Roy said. "They just wanted me to play my game."
Roy shared that story after being asked about reasonable expectations for 18-year-old burgeoning star Nathan MacKinnon when the playoffs begin Thursday.
Roy eased the 2013 No. 1 overall pick into the lineup during his rookie season, but MacKinnon’s speed, quickness and confidence earned him more and more playing time and responsibility. With Matt Duchene out and John Mitchell questionable, MacKinnon is projected to center a line with Ryan O'Reilly and P.A. Parenteau. Production from MacKinnon is a critical part of the Avs' beating the Minnesota Wild in an evenly matched first-round series.
That wasn't the message from Roy, however. His expectations for MacKinnon aren't to produce offensively.