Washington Capitals bench boss Peter Laviolette was a guest on 106.7 The Fan on Tuesday morning where he discussed this season’s play of All-Star centerman, Evgeny Kuznetsov. Laviolette believes that Kuznetsov has not only earned his trip to Las Vegas for this weekends All-Star game, but is also a big reason why team captain Alex Ovechkin is having the year he’s having.
”It’s really good for him. Well deserved. He had a great summer. He had a great training camp. He worked really hard in the summer, came into camp and played really well for us right from the start,” said Laviolette.
Kuznetsov has been on the same line with Ovechkin for most of the season, and as a result, Laviolette believes the two players have demonstrated why they are one of the top duos in the league.
“It’s been kinda crazy with our lineup through the first 46 games, or whatever it is. Kuzy and Ovi, and as a pair, have been fantastic. Probably one of the top duos in the league, if you go by and look at it, just based on production, you take the top two players off each line. They’ve been together pretty much the whole time. Tom’s (Wilson) got a heavy hand in that, because he played a lot of games on the wing. Those two guys have been consistently together, for the most part, and they’ve put up excellent numbers.”
Ovechkin is having a big year, and Laviolette believes that a big reason behind Ovechkin’s season is the play of Kuznetsov.
“Ovi’s having a year, but I think, in order for him to have a year, you have to have a centerman that’s also playing really well. Somebody who can distribute the puck and play at a high level and with speed. Kuzy, from the start, has been a big reason why we sit where we sit, based on the turmoil that we’ve had with the lineup, with regard to injuries and guys missing and long-term injuries,” said Laviolette.
By all accounts, Kuznetsov’s season has gone markedly better than last season. Laviolette believes the turnaround began last summer, when all of Kuznetsov’s teammates were focused on time off and vacations.
“Sometimes you just don’t like the way your year goes. Or you don’t like the way you’re playing or where you’re at. He made a commitment. He trained all summer. He stayed on the ice all summer. He’s not a rookie anymore. He’s not 21-years-old, and yet he was there at the rink and he was on the ice way before others. Just skating and getting in shape. Came back and just wanted to have a good year, wanted to make a difference.”
Kuznetsov and the Capitals have two more games, tonight in Pittsburgh and Wednesday night at home against the Oilers, before Kuznetsov and Ovechkin head for Nevada and the 2022 All-Star weekend, which begins on Friday.
By Jon Sorensen