The Avalanche had one of its best offensive games this season the last time it played Washington, and it’s aiming tonight for a repeat performance—perhaps even bettering it—in a rematch at Pepsi Center.
Colorado got five goals against the Capitals on Oct. 12 in a 5-1 win at Verizon Center, and Avs goaltender Semyon Varlamov was stellar, too, stopping 40 shots against his former team.
Matt Duchene scored a first-period goal, which ultimately was the game winner.
“We’re looking to improve on that game,” said Duchene, who has 11 goals this season and trails just by two Alex Ovechkin, Washington’s NHL scoring-leader (13). “We watched some clips on their power play, which is best in the league. We didn’t really look at last game. We did a really good job last game, but we’re looking to be even better tonight.”
Washington has put together a 8-3-1 record since it played Colorado nearly a month ago and is 9-7-1 overall. The Avalanche has gone 8-2 since Oct. 12 and is 13-2 overall this season with a chance tonight to finish a four-game homestand at 3-1.
A big reason both teams are having so much success this year can be found in power-play situations, offensively and defensively.
Washington has been dominant this year on the power play, scoring 20 goals in 71 chances for a 28.2 percent conversion rate, which is tops in the NHL. Seven of Ovechkin’s 13 goals this season have come on Caps power plays.
Conversely, Colorado has been one of the league’s top penalty-killing teams through the season’s first six weeks, snuffing out 42 of 48 opponent power-play situations (87.5 percent, 3rd NHL).
Tonight’s game could come down to the success of Washington’s power play against the success of the Avs’ penalty kill. Colorado faced two shorthanded situations in the teams’ earlier meeting but didn’t allow a goal either time.
“You have some patterns that you see in some teams, but you want to see if they make some adjustment on either power play or penalty killing,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. “This is how you can prepare yourself for the game—no surprise. I think the way we played against [the Caps seemed] to work well in that game in [Washington], and certainly we’d love to repeat it again tonight.”
One thing Avalanche defensive coach Adam Foote has been telling his blue liners this season is to try to play a perfect game.
Unlike in baseball, where a perfect game is a statistical term for a pitcher who doesn't allow a hit, walk or error, in hockey it’s more of a non-statistical term with results not always showing up in the postgame scoresheet, especially when the player isn't a goalie.
In Friday night's 4-2 victory over the Calgary Flames, defenseman Erik Johnson was one of the Avalanche's best players, and it can be argued that he was playing a near-perfect game.
"I thought tonight that he could have been the first star of that game. To be honest with you, he was probably one of our best players on the ice," Colorado head coach Patrick Roy said of Johnson after the game. "[When] EJ moves his feet, and he's shooting with more confidence, he's a good player. I was very happy with his game tonight, he showed a lot of poise out there in my opinion."
- After sharing its spotlight for much of the year with Quebec, the Avalanche has a chance tonight to earn a solo spot in the franchise’s record books. At 13-2-0 the Avs have equaled their best start through 15 games in franchise history, joining the 1994-95. No Avalanche/Nordiques team has ever started 14-2-0.
- Tonight’s game is the second and final regular-season meeting between Colorado and Washington. The Avs have won three straight and four of their past five against the Caps.
- Paul Stastny’s goal Friday night against Calgary gave him 140 goals in his career and moved him to within one score of eighth place on the Avalanche’s goals-scored list. Dale Hunter (1980-87; 1998-99) had 140 goals in seven seasons with the Quebec Nordiques and two goals with the Avalanche during the 1998-99 season.
- Semyon Varlamov will start in goal tonight for Colorado after suffering just his second loss of the season Friday night against Nashville. Varlamov (8-2) allowed five goals in the 6-4 setback after having allowed just 16 scores in his previous nine appearances this season.
- Colorado will wear its blue third jerseys tonight for the second time this season. The Avalanche is 1-0 in blue this season, after defeating Dallas 3-2 in its blue jerseys on Oct. 15.
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