Colorado Avalanche Host Stanley Cup Champion Capitals

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 16: Alexander Kerfoot #13 of the Colorado Avalanche fights for control of the puck against Lars Eller #20 of the Washington Capitals at Pepsi Center on November 16, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 16: Alexander Kerfoot #13 of the Colorado Avalanche fights for control of the puck against Lars Eller #20 of the Washington Capitals at Pepsi Center on November 16, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche are hosting the reigning Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals before heading off on a western road trip.

The Colorado Avalanche have some fancy guests tonight. They’re hosting the current Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals. This is the only time said fancy guests will be coming to Pepsi Center.

Historically, the Avalanche have struggled with the Capitals, going 13-16-0-2 (ties) all-time. Last season they split the series, with each team winning at home. The Avs’ win was a big one because captain Gabriel Landeskog recorded his first NHL hat trick that night:

Granted, it was on Philipp Grubauer, who’s now our goalie, but let’s not focus on that.

Colorado is coming off of a two-game winning streak preceded by a five-game losing streak. They’re now 9-6-3 on the season, though, thanks to a strong start in October. Washington is coming off a loss in Winnipeg preceded by a lot of ups and downs. They did beat the (green) pants off the Minnesota Wild, and we appreciate them for that. Our fancy guests don’t have quite as good a record — 8-7-3.

How to Enjoy the Game

Game time: November 16, 7:00 pm MT
TV Networks: Alt, NBCSWA+ (Caps’ feed)
Radio: Altitude Radio (FM 92.5)

Tonight is the Colorado Avalanche’s Hockey Fights Cancer game, presented by UCHealth. Prior to or during the game, you can get purple placards with the “I fight for” message, which you can then personalize. You can share your photos on social media with the hashtag  #HockeyFightsCancer.

The Former Teammates Effect

Goalie Philipp Grubauer will be in net. Tonight marks the first time the now Colorado Avalanche goalie will face his former teammates since being traded this summer. It was the most amicable of trades since Grubauer wanted to be a number-one goalie at least eventually, and that wasn’t going to happen in Washington.

Naturally, Grubauer has fond memories of the team with which he won the Stanley Cup last season. He does expect some awkwardness at first:

"“It is obviously going to be weird the first couple minutes. In warmups too, looking down and seeing the jerseys. “"

He acknowledges that he has the same goal with his current team, though — to win. He adds:

"“Once the puck drops, it’s all about business. You can’t focus on who is coming down… it doesn’t matter. You have to stop the puck, and you got to focus on the situation and read the game.”"

Of course, Semyon Varlamov is also formerly of the Washington Capitals, but that was years ago. I expect Grubauer will be like any other former teammate — wanting to show his old team what they’re missing out on.

The Tom Wilson Effect

Love him or hate him, but Tom Wilson has an effect on people. I like him because he reminds me of old style hockey. I also don’t agree that we want to take all physicality out of the game — there’s a reason we watch North American vs, European hockey.*

Beyond the physicality, though, Wilson is much-beloved on his team. Indeed, it’s openly stated that he’s expected to take on the mantle of leadership if he’s still around when Alex Ovechkin retires. He certainly galvanized the Capitals in his return when the Caps spanked the Mild 5-2.

Wilson scored a nice goal:

And, of course, got in a fight:

I really don’t mind his crashing the goalie. Nor do I mind his fighting Wild players. That said, I hope our Colorado Avalanche players have the good sense to leave Wilson be. There’s not a man on our roster I could see dropping the Caps forward, who happens to take boxing lessons in the off-season.

They need to skate circles around him and hit him where it hurts — on the scoreboard.

*Side note: There’s an additional reason I think players like Wilson have relevance — dirty plays are going to still happen, and the NHL picks and chooses who they punish. In the Jets game, we saw TJ Oshie slammed to the ice by  Josh Morissey:

Now, Wilson is actually on the ice at the moment. However, the NHL has done such a good job of handcuffing him that opponents clearly feel they can take liberties with the Caps’ skill players.

Morissey was fined by the Department of Player “Safety.” I’m still waiting to hear if Gabriel Landeskog will face supplemental discipline because he was in hockey gear in North America when the hit happened.

Speaking of our captain…

The Top Line Effect

The Colorado Avalanche have the top line in hockey. After Wednesday’s 6-3 victory over the Boston Bruins, the combo proved who’s your daddy — and it isn’t Pastrnak-Marchand-Bergeron.

Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen have combined for 75 points on the year already. They still very much have the ability to control the fate of the Avs.

Meanwhile, of course, the Caps have Ovechkin, who shoots the puck like he’s the business end of a tennis ball launcher. And we already know the Avs aren’t the greatest at limiting shots even under the best of circumstances.

My money’s on the Who’s Your Daddy line. They’ve shown chemistry since last year. However, watching them play the last couple games is like watching a well-oiled machine function. And that’s better than a simple old tennis ball launcher.

Next. Is Grubi Being Underutilized?. dark

After tonight’s game, the Colorado Avalanche are heading west on a three-game road trip to Anaheim, LA and Arizona. They’ll face the Capitals only one more time, in Washington on February 7.