Photo: Washington Capitals
Barry Trotz stated Tuesday after practice that the Capitals will likely split Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom to start the season. The initial plan will be to join Ovechkin with Evgeny Kuznetsov on one line and Backstrom and T.J. Oshie on another line.
However you like to look at it – a demotion for Ovechkin to the second line, or Trotz once again just shaking things up, the fact of the matter is clear. Trotz and Caps Nation will be expecting a lot from the Ovechkin-Kuznetsov line, and rightfully so.
The pressure will be amplified for Ovechkin and Kuznetsov to produce this season. With nearly 25 percent ($18 million) of the team’s entire salary cap going to Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, the pressure to produce is obviously expected.
Evgeny Kuznetsov knew added pressure was coming this season no matter what the line combinations would be. Kuznetsov signed an eight-year, $62.4 million contract back on July 2nd, making him the second highest paid Capital, right behind fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin.
Alex Ovechkin’s pressures are not entirely new, having been the highest aid player on the Capitals since originally signing with the team. However, Ovechkin is coming off of one of his weakest seasons in scoring in a number of years and pressures to return to his high scoring ways are also clearly present.
With the departures of Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson and other offensive scoring from last season, the Capitals lost a cumulative 26% of their goal production from last season. that’s a considerable loss. The Caps will hope new additions will make up for some of the goal scoring, but existing players will also need to step up, starting with the two highest paid players of Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. Team scoring will likely diminish this season. The question is how much, and what will be the overall affect on the playoff chase.
By Jon Sorensen