Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
With a handful of departures this offseason, the Caps lost 68 of the 261 goals they scored last season (26%). That leaves them at 193 goals, which would have been good for 27th best in the NHL last season. Obviously new players will make up for some of the lost offensive production, but the Caps will need Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky to turn up their production to match their new contracts.
His NHL career has been inconsistent thus far, with scoring streaks interrupted by long droughts without scoring. Kuznetsov had 3 points, all assists, in the last 12 games two seasons ago. That was followed by a poor playoff showing, in which he scored just one goal, two points, and had a -4 rating.
This season, Kuznetsov had just 3 goals entering January 3rd, but a strong finish saw him end the season with 19 goals and 59 points. Kuznetsov played better in the playoffs, earning 5 goals and 10 points with a -1 rating in 13 games. If the Caps are going to be a successful team this season, Kuznetsov must be more consistent. The Caps cannot afford to see Kuznetsov to go long stretches without scoring as he has in the past, especially after signing him to an 8-year contract worth $62.4 million ($7.8 million AVV). The good news for the Caps is that he’s coming out of a strong playoff performance, unlike the previous season.
After a scoring two goals on opening night last season, Burakovsky went the next 26 games without scoring a goal. Then, Barry Trotz scratched him for three straight games in December. In his first game back, he scored. In total, Burakovsky scored 7 goals and 16 points in the 25 games after he got scratched.
Burakovsky suffered a wrist injury on February 9 and missed 15 games. He came back to register 1 goal and 5 assists in the last 12 games of the regular season. In the playoffs, he scored 3 times, including twice in Game 6 against Pittsburgh, and he finished with 6 points in 13 playoff games. This isn’t the only year that this has happened. In 2015-16, Andre Burakovsky scored 2 goals in October and then went 26 games without another goal. He just had 3 assists in that span.
Burakovsky has to get more consistent for the Capitals to contend for the Stanley Cup. He is likely to receive a bigger role to start the season due to the departures of Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson, possibly on the top line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, where he had 3 goals and 4 points in two games to end the season.
These young superstars for the Capitals headline the list of players who need to step up to replace the losses from the offseason.
Burakovsky, 22, and Kuznetsov, 25, have shown the potential to be superstar players, but they’ve also suffered from inconsistency. If they step up, the Capitals will be a playoff contender again next season, but if not, the Caps will have a hard time battling for the 3rd division spot. The Caps have shown their faith in both players with new contracts; now Burakovsky and Kuznetsov have to deliver.
By Harrison Brown