Evgeny Kuznetsov will probably never be known as a goal scorer in the National Hockey League. Will he get his fair share of goals throughout his NHL career? Of course, you would think Kuznetsov will or should get around 20+ goals every season. With the type of speed, skill and smarts he has you can also hope for 40-50 assists for him as well and you should get around 60-70 points a year from one of your top two centers.
The assists totals are fine right now from the young Russian center. Thirty-two games into the season and he sits at 17 assists. Keep up that pace and Kuznetsov will land around 42 or 43 assists this season. Sure that’s down from last seasons 57 but I don’t think you can expect that every year.
It’s the goal scoring that has been very disappointing from Kuznetsov for a while now. You’ll hear the excuses from some people and some fans. Those excuses being, “He’s just in a slump, he’ll work his way out of it.” I can understand a slump, and I can feel sorry for guys who just can’t seem to buy goals like Justin Williams earlier this season. But there comes a point where you have to stop calling something a slump. That time has come for Kuznetsov.
What counts as a slump or Schneid though? Zero goals in ten games? Just one goal in twelve? Two goals in twenty? How about 3 goals in 32 games? That’s where Kuznetsov is so far this season. The 24-year-old is also goalless in his last thirteen games.
His dry streak isn’t all about this season though and that’s why you have to wonder what is going on here. Kuznetsov had a great season last year. As mentioned before his 57 assists combined with his 20 goals nearly got him a point per game season. But it was his lack of goals that cost him his point per game season and even worse probably cost the Capitals late in the season and in the playoffs.
In 47 games before the All-Star break last season Kuznetsov had 15 goals. If he had kept up that pace he would have ended up with 25 goals, five more than he ended up getting and there is the 82 points in 82 games.
Well as we now know he didn’t keep up that pace. In fact he cut that pace in half. Instead of getting 10 more goals he potted just 5 goals in the remaining 35 games after the All-Star game.
The majority of those 5 goals were scored fairly quickly after the All-Star break though, 4 of them were scored in February. It was March all the way until the end of the playoffs where the goals stopped coming for Kuznetsov.
What did the numbers end up being? Zero goals in his last twenty regular season games and just one goal in twelve playoff games. I’ll do the math for you, that’s just ONE goal in his last 32 games of the 2015-16 calendar. If you want to know that one goal came in game 3 vs Philadelphia, a power play goal that made the score 4-1 in what ended up a 6-1 game and an embarrassing game for several reasons.
The goal scoring didn’t dry up starting this season, this is going back to last season. Now instead of looking at just 3 goals in 32 games this season, we’re looking at 4 goals in 64 games OR 3 goals in his last 52 regular season games.
Unless you’re the coaches, team management, maybe a scout or the player himself it’s hard to figure these things out, but diving into some numbers maybe we can spot something.
Maybe Kuznetsov just isn’t shooting as much. Well that’s kind of true, but also very wrong. This season Kuznetsov is averaging 1.78 shots per game down from last seasons 2.35. Oh, well there you go, there is a good explanation, his shots are down. But what doesn’t make sense is his shots per game last season went up as his goalless streak started. Before the All-Star break Kuznetsov was averaging 2.12 shots per game while getting 15 goals. Then he averaged 2.54 shots per game after the break. In March and April where he got one goal in 21 games it went up even more to 2.76 shots per game.
Seemingly everyday more people want to see shot attempts percentage so we can look at that too. Last season among the Capitals Kuznetsov was among the best. His Corsi% was 52.53 which was 8th on the team or if you adjust it was 51.99% which dropped him to 9th best on the team.
This season his numbers aren’t as high in this category. At just 50.18% he is 5th worst on his own team, he drops to 4th worst if you adjust it again. As you can see that’s about a two and a half point drop.
A stat I find interesting is Scoring Chances For %. Kuznetsov is 45.60% on this. His scoring chances for/60 is at 7.99 which is 5th worst on his team and his scoring chances against/60 is at 9.53, 9th worst on his own team.
The scoring chances against are about the same as last season, he was 9.34 in this stat last season. It’s the other numbers that took a pretty big hit. Last season Kuznetsov was all the way up to 10.34 in SCF/60 and 52.55 SCF%.
Is that the answer? His shot attempt percentages are down, he’s taking less shots and his scoring chances are down. Did the NHL and coaches figure out how to slow him down after his hot start in 2015-16 or is this something Kuznetsov can fix or figure out.
The Capitals better hope it’s the latter because as much assists as he does put up they need their top six center to score more than 7 or 8 goals which is what he’s on pace for this season.
One of the things that killed that Capitals last season was depth. If Washington can’t even rely on one of their top players to score goals I wouldn’t expect this season to end much differently.
By CJ Paige