Nov 9, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Capitals center Marcus Johansson (90) and right wing Troy Brouwer (20) and right wing Alex Ovechkin (8) celebrate the goal buy defenseman John Carlson (74) against Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith (not pictured) during the second period at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Avalanche - Capitals

Who: Washington Capitals (9-7-1)

When: Tonight, 8:00PM EST/6:00PM MDT

Your Starting Goalies: COL – Semyon Varlamov (8-2-0), WAS – Braden Holtby (7-5-0)

The Dangermen: The Capitals are a little top heavy, but they have seven guys with at least 10 points and two of the top 10 point-producers in the league right now. They struggle with consistency, but this group can put ‘em away with the best of them.

Leading the charge is none other than Alex Ovechkin. After slumping a few years ago, leading many to question if he was the same guy anymore, he’s burst back into stardom. He’s the defending Hart Trophy winner and looks just as dangerous this year. With 13 goals in his 15 games this season, he’s on an incredible pace. He’s dangerous on the rush and the Caps look to set him up on the power play so he can unleash that massive one-timer. He is always a threat.

Perhaps one of the most underrated guys in the league right now is his center, Nicklas Backstrom. A premier playmaker with great hands and equally great vision, he is tied with Ovechkin for the team lead in points. He quietly goes about his business, letting The Great Eight take all the accolades. Backstrom will hurt you and hurt you badly if you let him.

Speaking of centers, the Capitals are deep and getting production down the middle. Marcus Johansson and Mikhail Grabovski are clicking right now, with 15 and 14 points respectively. Grabovski, the new-comer to the group, has found a nice rapport with winger Jason Chimera.

This is a group as deep as the Avs and capable of doing lots of damage. The defense will need to make quick decisions with the puck and clean up the break out pass if they want to avoid getting lit up. And this is where “STAY OUT OF THE DAMN BOX” applies a little extra. Ovechkin on the power play = death.

The Defenders: Mike Green is again the face of this group. He leads the way with 10 points so far and looks good once again. His biggest issue over the last few years has been injury, but he’s around to face the Avalanche so they have to keep an eye on him when the puck is in the Colorado zone.

John Carlson and Karl Alzner are talented youngsters but on such a young and inexperienced blueline, have become veterans. They’re still growing. Carlson has a little offensive pop to his game but Alzner is more defensively-oriented.

I couldn’t find much on the rest of the group, but they give up their fair share of goals, too — they sit in the bottom half of the league in goals against per game. If the Avalanche can get in the head of this young defensive group, they could get out to an early lead and get the Capitals defense running around.

Puck Stoppers Inc.:  For now, it looks like Braden Holtby will be getting the start for the Capitals. After a slow start, he’s compiled a pretty solid stat line: 7-5-0, 2.60 GAA, .925 save percentage. He’s always had the talent, but it’s been a wonder to anyone and everyone whether or not he could turn into the big-game goalie the Capitals have always needed.

He’s got quick reflexes and the ability to steal a game or two, but has a penchant for giving up the bad goal. This Avs team will need to put shots on net from everywhere and anywhere. If Holtby lets one bad one in, that could open the flood gates. Getting to him early and peppering him often will be the way to beat him.

Nov 7, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby (70) makes a save on Minnesota Wild center Charlie Coyle (3) in the third period at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

How the Avs match up: Two high-scoring teams should lead to excitement regardless of how well the defenses play. Each group has its flaws on the defensive end and the Avalanche are dangling in a precarious position in regards to their defensive depth. Both teams are deep as can be offensively and know how to find the back of the net (both teams are in the top 10 in goals per game).

If the Avalanche are disciplined (stay out of the box and all that), make quick passes in the defensive end and smart decisions with the puck, they’ll limit the damage. Puck possession in the Capitals end will also be huge — if you maintain possession in their end, they can’t hurt you offensively. Limit the amount of chances Ovechkin and company can get and you stand a good chance.

Key Matchup: quick, smart passes vs Capitals forward juggernaut

Cower in fear if: Ovechkin does Ovechkin things frequently.

The break out passes are just as bad, resulting in turnovers and chances.

Holtby the game-stealer shows up.

Laugh maniacally if: Varly looks super human again.

Matt Duchene one-ups Ovechkin in the superstar department.

The Avs puck possession the Capitals to death.

Silly predictions: Gabe Landeskog gets back in on the goal-scoring; Andre Benoit FINALLY gets a goal (been saying this awhile, so it’s bound to pay off); Ovechkin is going to embarrass someone; Capitals power play gets at least one; Holtby makes one or two outrageous saves in a tight spot.

Final:  4-3 Capitals

Ryan is the editor of Mile High Sticking as well as co-owner of The Farm Club. Follow him on Twitter to talk Avs, Sabres, hockey in general, or to let him know what a yutz he is.

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Tags: 2013-14 Season Alex Ovechkin Colorado Avalanche Matt Duchene Mike Green NHL Nicklas Backstrom Semyon Varlamov Washington Capitals

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