Nov 10, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Washington Capitals center Marcus Johansson (90) battles Colorado Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda (8) for the puck as Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) defends the goal during the third period at Pepsi Center. The Avalanche won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

What We Learned: Avalanche - Capitals

That’s more what we’re accustomed to.

The visiting Washington Capitals rolled into Denver looking to avenge a 5-1 home loss to the Avalanche from mid-October. The Capitals have been scoring with the best of ‘em since then, looking as though maybe they were starting to turn the corner.

The Avalanche, meanwhile, were back on the winning track having beaten Calgary 4-2 after their second loss of the season two nights prior. The result? Pretty much the same as it was the last time.

Let’s see what we learned from Sunday night’s 4-1 win.

Potent PK

Of all the things the Avalanche have done this year, you sometimes forget that they have one of the best penalty kills in the game right now. They certainly showed why that is last night against the Caps.

Washington had four power plays on the night, including a 5-on-3 that lasted about a minute or so. Colorado turned away all opportunities and killed off all four chances to improve to 88.5%, trailing only the Caps’ penalty kill (88.7%) and the Vancouver Canucks (89.4%).

This team doesn’t do anything fancy and isn’t going to lead the league in shorthanded goals, but they get the job done. Getting into passing and shooting lanes, using active sticks to take away angles and passes as well as getting in front of shots at every opportunity. Blocked shots have become a big part of this defense and it’s paying dividends.

Perhaps the most important thing? This team is deep on penalty killers and can plug just about anyone in and find success. This group knows its role from top to bottom and they’re getting the results they want.

He’s Baaaaaaack

I think it would be an exaggeration to say that anyone was truly worried about Semyon Varlamov, but he’s been less than sterling in his last few starts. Compared to the absolute lights out performances we became accustomed to seeing, it was a stark difference.

Last night, we got the Varly that started the season. He was more than stellar, turning away 33 of 34 shots and just looking like himself again. With all of the off-ice issues going on in his life right now, it would be more than understandable if his play slipped. You can’t face those kinds of accusations and not have it affect you.

But if this team is going to go anywhere over this long season, Varly is going to need to be the guy they’ve come to love. They need him to play well, be their best penalty killer and give them a shot to win every night.

This Avalanche team is deep offensively, but they won’t go anywhere without numero uno between the pipes.

Enough About Duchene

I’m actually going to fawn over someone else this time! Duchene was fantastic again last night, including a wonderful assist on P.A. Parenteau’s goal. But I go nuts about him just about every time we do one of these things, so let’s talk about someone else for once.

Gabe Landeskog has been back with a vengeance this season. He’s got 13 points on the season so far (six goals), but just the way in which he’s scoring is what’s worth noting. Last night, he did this to Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby:

He’s had a few goals where he just bullies his way to the net and buries it. It’s very easy to forget just how young Landeskog is (he’s just 20) given that he’s already been the captain of the Avalanche for two years, but this guy is still growing as a player. He’s still learning, still developing and the fact that he’s this good already gives Avalanche fans something to celebrate.

Next up: 11/12 @ Carolina 

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 Gabriel Landeskog NHL Semyon Varlamov Washington Capitals

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