The Colorado Avalanche, winners of eight of their last nine, welcome the Washington Capitals to Denver tonight in the team’s final game before the Stadium Series on the base of the Air Force Academy on Saturday evening.
Alexander Ovechkin is just two goals shy of scoring the 700th of his career, and as a result tonight’s tilt has been flexed to be nationally broadcast on NBC in advance of the Capitals’ superstar potentially setting that record tonight. In addition to that, the game’s start time was also pushed back to 7:30 p.m. MST to accommodate.
Ovi would become just the eighth player in NHL history to hit that mark.
Watching Avs hockey has been fun since the return from All-Star break.
Colorado has won five in a row and seven out of eight games, while recording points in 10-of-11 since Jan. 10. Not bad. With that, the Avalanche has moved within just one point of long-time Central Division-leading St. Louis Blues, and has extended their back-and-forth standings battle with the Dallas Stars to a more comfortable three-point cushion.
Here are some quick facts about the Avs in their current streak since Feb. 2:
- Colorado has allowed the fewest goals (5)
- The Avs are tied with Tampa Bay for the best record and most points
- They’ve scored the second-most goals in that span
- Power play ranks No. 9
If the Avalanche continue to play like this, they look like a team that could do some damage in the playoffs. One of the big reasons for Colorado’s success over the past couple weeks has been the return of its depth scoring.
Andre Burakovsky leads the charge with six assists and eight points in his last six, with Valeri Nichushkin not far behind with three goals and six points in as many games. Both are also a plus-7 in that span and both have averaged among the fewest minutes of forwards (just about 13 minutes per game each).
We’ll talk about Philipp Grubauer’s contributions to all of this further down the preview.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Valeri Nichushkin - J.T. Compher - Andre Burakovsky
Matt Calvert - Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare - Joonas Donskoi
Tyson Jost - Vladislav Kamenev - Matt Nieto
Ryan Graves - Cale Makar
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Nikita Zadorov
Things have been going just OK for the Caps as of late. Washington has been a very mediocre 10-9 over their last 19. Yet still, the Caps sit atop the Metro with 77 points. Also of note, Washington owns the league’s best road record at 20-6-1.
Defenseman John Carlson has been leading the way for the Caps since the calendar flipped to Feb. 1. His five points lead the way, while Ovi and Lars Eller have each tallied three goals in their last four contests.
Washington is just one goal shy of Colorado’s 200 goals scored this season and average the second-most goals per game (3.55), second only to the Avalanche. The Capitals also have the NHL’s second-best penalty kill this season at 84.2 percent.
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Travis Boyd - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitri Orlov - Nick Jensen
Jonas Siegenthaler - Radio Gudas
Undoubtedly getting the starting nod tonight will be Philipp Grubauer. After struggling mightily with inconsistency issues that had Avs fans seeking outside help as the trade deadline approaches, Grubauer has been playing on another level since the start of this current five-game win streak.
Since the Avs routed the Sabres in Buffalo on Feb. 4, Grubauer sits first in the NHL (among goalies that have played four or more games) with a 4-0 record, a .974 save percentage, 0.75 goals-against average and a shutout. The man has only allowed three goals in his last four contests. We’ll see if he can prevent his former teammate from hitting 700 tonight.
On the Washington side of things, Braden Holtby will likely get the starting nod. Holtby is 20-11-4 this season with a not-so-great 3.17 GAA and .894 Sv%.