The Washington Capitals officially wrapped up their 2021-22 season on Sunday at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, and conducted their annual exit interviews with the press.
The Caps’ early exit in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs after holding a 2-1 series lead was a hard pill to swallow as they were eliminated in the first round of the postseason for the fourth straight time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018; a win that would not have occurred without the production of Evgeny Kuznetsov.
“You know there’s ups and downs during the year, but it’s always tough when you exit in the first round like that. Doesn’t matter how you play in regular season, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but for me personally, I was very disappointed in the way we finished.”
The Capitals’ veteran core for the most part, kept pace with the Panthers, however letting games slip away from them cost the team the series.
“There is always commitment by the guys before the playoff, but this year there was something special inside of the group, but you know, we had the opportunity to finish them, but unfortunately, they always score when they need, it’s tough to swallow.”
After a tough 2020-21 season that saw his on-ice performance dip and struggles off the ice, Kuznetsov rebounded in 2021-22, recording 78 Points (24 G, 54 A) in 79 Games Played, with five points in six playoff games.
“It’s tough to say because the bad end to the season, but overall I’m pretty confident, I like the way the season went. In terms of the points, maybe a little more, but at the same time I was focusing on different things. Overall, it’s not up to me to judge how I play, but I need some time to think about and what I have to change in terms of offseason, but overall I think we had a pretty good year. [It’s] big to get the fans back, and all that stuff, and I was really enjoying this year, but like I said, the end of the season, it’s very tough for me personally.”
Kuznetsov’s resurgent and revived spirit saw him placed into a number of situations by Head Coach Peter Laviolette, including both power play and the penalty kill; Kuznetsov recorded 27 points on the man-advantage, and scored three times while the Caps were shorthanded.
“That means a lot. I learned new things that confidence comes from the coach. If coach wants to give you confidence, he’ll help you and Peter really helped me this year, so I want to say thanks for that.”
Kuznetsov’s countryman and close friend Alex Ovechkin scored 50 goals for the ninth time in his career in the 2021-22 season, and moved into third place on the NHL’s all-time Goals list. Despite tremendous scrutiny off the ice, Ovechkin posted his first 90-point season in 12 seasons.
“That’s a tough year for him for sure, but I think he played one of the best seasons, right. Like I said it’s hard to judge because we have everything to beat the Panthers and we didn’t. But in terms of his own goals, it’s important for him to score 50, I enjoyed watching him.”
By Michael Fleetwood