During the regular season, the Capitals saw consistent production from Russian superstars Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov en route to their first Metropolitan Division championship and the President’s Trophy. Ovechkin led the team and league with 50 goals, while Kuznetsov led the team in scoring with 77 points. In the playoffs, however, it has been a completely different story.
While Ovechkin had five points (three goals, two assists) in six games against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round, he has just one assist in two games against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In last night’s game, he was a minus-1 while recording just three shots in 19:02 of ice time.
Kuznetsov, meanwhile, hasn’t shown up whatsoever in eight games played. The 23-year old has a goal and an assist while checking in at a minus-8. In last night’s loss, he recorded his assist, while being a minus-1 to boot. While neither player has looked bad in the first two games, their lack of production is troubling. If the Caps hope to go further in the postseason, they’ll need everyone, particularly their big-name offensive players, to step up when they need them the most.
Both players have had chances to score and make significant contributions, but their luck has been bad. One area of improvement for both players would be on the power play, which has been deathly quiet the last few games. Ovechkin, in particular has been shut down by the Penguins’ penalty kill; this could be attributed to the fact that he stands in his usual position in the left faceoff circle nearly the entire two minutes. Getting the man-advantage rolling could go a long way in getting some points on the board and beating the Pens.
For the Caps, one thing is certain: they’ll need not only Kuznetsov and Ovechkin, but the entire team to step up their play if they hope to beat a high-powered Pittsburgh offense. And the improved play of two of their biggest players would go a long way in helping them accomplish that goal.
By Michael Fleetwood