Photo: Washington Post
It seems like every time Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov scores, you do the Bird Celly. He has had an intense season after coming off of last year’s Stanley Cup Championship but has managed to secure 72 points (third most on the team) with 21 goals and 51 assists with two games left to go before the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs start. Let’s take a look back on Kuznetsov’s season.
It was October 3, Banner Raising Night, that the 26-year old scored his first goal of the new season and it just took him 1:47 to do it. It was not just one goal though, it was two that helped the Capitals in the 7-0 route over the Boston Bruins. He would pick up his first assist a night later when the Capitals lost 7-6 to the rival Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena. In the third game of the season on October 10, Washington welcomed the Vegas Golden Knights for the first time at Capital One Arena since the Stanley Cup Final. He collected four points (including one goal) in that 5-2 victory.
On November 14, the Capitals fell 3-1 to the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Centre. During the first period, Kuznetsov left after getting hit in the head by Jets forward Brandan Tanev. He did not return for the remainder of the game and it was later revealed that he had an upper-body injury, most likely a concussion, that forced him to miss six games. He recorded 22 points throughout October and November.
In all 13 games in December, Kuznetsov only scored once, a dazzling goal in a 6-5 loss against the Anaheim Ducks at Capital One Arena, a game which the Capitals led 5-1 in the second period. He was picking up several assists during the month and tallied up 12 points.
January was a rough month for the Capitals. They went 3-6-3 and had a seven-game losing streak (0-5-2), which was the longest losing streak since the 2010-11 season when they lost eight in a row (0-6-2). However, before things went south for the remainder of the month. Kuznetsov hit the 300 career point mark in the 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on January 5 at Little Caesars Arena. Head coach Todd Reirden decided to shake the line combinations up after lost their fifth straight game later that month. As a regular on the second line, Kuznetsov was demoted to the third line in hopes of better offensive production. He had only one goal at five-on-five play, something the center struggled with a majority of the season. At that time, he also had the worst shot attempt percentage, which was 47.7%
In the first game back from the All-Star Break and the bye-week, the Capitals were looking to break the miserable seven-game skid. They pulled off a 4-3 win at Capital One Arena when the Calgary Flames were in town on February 1. It was all thanks to Kuznetsov, who had the game-winning goal (his first game-winning goal and 10th overall of the season) with 57.3 seconds to go in regulation. He would score another game-winning goal just three games later when the Capitals hosted the Colorado Avalanche and won 4-3 in overtime. Kuznetsov had one of his best nights on February 11, when he recorded two goals and four points in Washington’s 6-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in the final game of the Capitals’ season-long six-game homestand. We were starting to see Kuznetsov back in a playoff shape as his consistency on the ice was getting much better.
Kuznetsov has one goal and seven points in his last five games. With just two regular season games remaining at home for the Capitals, Kuznetsov continues to be one of Washington’s key offensive players as they head into the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs next week.
By Della Young