Before flying down south for Games 1 and 2 of the Washington Capitals’ first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Florida Panthers, center Evgeny Kuznetsov told the media in Monday’s post-practice availability that “When our chances come, we have to execute and think game-by-game. That is a good team to play against and we [have one too] so it should be a pretty good matchup.”
The 29-year-old stated that ”I believe the more young guys you have less pressure” and that makes it a little bit easier for the team.
While the Panthers are the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners and the Capitals are the second wild-card in the Eastern Conference, Kuznetsov feels like “the expectation and the pressure is similar for both teams” and “pressure is big on us too. … After several games, it will go away and both teams will open up a little more.”
”We believe we have a good team … and everything to be successful,” Kuznetsov stated, adding that the Capitals have everything and won recently. “We put pressure on ourselves too. … We want to play better too.”
On captain Alex Ovechkin practicing the past two days after missing the last three games of the regular season due to an upper-body injury suffered in the Capitals’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 24, Kuznetsov said ”You don’t want to see your teammate get hurt like that. … He looked good in practice. That’s [Ovechkin] right? He just needs a couple shots.” He added that the moment Ovechkin was injured was different from what he’s used to as his captain normally comes back up.
When asked about left-wing Conor Sheary, who has practiced on a line with him and Ovechkin the past two days, Kuznetsov responded ”[Sheary’s] a pretty good player. He adjusted well to our system. He knows how I play, [how Ovechkin] plays. … What makes him a great player I think is that he’s a good person.” He also said that Sheary is easy to communicate with and does his job.
Regarding the Capitals’ goaltending tandem of Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov, who have combined for less than four games of postseason experience in their careers, Kuznetsov stated that ”I believe in them. They’re young but I believe in them. They’ve both had pretty good games but it’s not about them, it’s about us [and] how we’re going to help them.” He also took responsibility for allowing chances that lead to quality chances against.
By Harrison Brown