Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon didn't think he was playing his best hockey last season. This year had to be different.

"I just wanted to have a bounce-back season," MacKinnon said.

But in preparing for that, MacKinnon's biggest adjustment wasn't in the gym or on the ice. It was between the ears. He said he's more "mentally even keel" this season, keeping a calmer perspective when things do go wrong. Judging from his numbers, the improved outlook is working.

After MacKinnon had 53 points (16 goals, 37 assists) in 82 games last season, he has 78 points (32 goals, 46 assists) in 58 games, which lead the Avalanche and has him fourth in the NHL. He's been especially strong at Pepsi Center, where he's scored 57 points (23 goals, 34 assists).

MacKinnon scored a power-play goal in Colorado's 2-1 loss at the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday to extend his point streak to six games (seven goals, six assists).

"The lows aren't as bad and the highs aren't as high," MacKinnon said. "You're definitely hard on yourself when you're younger. You want to do well and I still do, obviously. But I'm just feeling grateful with what I do for a living. My bad days aren't really that bad in the real world. You take everything in stride."

It's been an impressive season for MacKinnon, 22. He's in the conversation for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL's most valuable player, but one that's not surprising his teammates.

"He's a great player, like everyone knows," said MacKinnon's linemate Mikko Rantanen. "There aren't a lot of [defensemen] who can match his speed, so it's good for us. He's got a good shot, like he showed on the power play. So, it's been fun to watch him play and we're glad to have him on our team."

MacKinnon's production has been critical to the Avalanche (35-24-7, 77 points), who are tied with the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.