On Sunday, Evgeny Kuznetsovpracticed for the first time as a Washington Capital. Since it was a scheduled off-day for the rest of the team, Kuzya was alone on the ice. With only head coach Adam Oates and strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish on the ice, Kuznetsov performed some drills.
Towards the end of his 50-minute practice, Kuznetsov and the coaches had some fun, taking pot shots at an empty net from the opposing goal.
Evgeny Kuznetsov will be living with Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin during his initial stay in America, and while he’s been really appreciative of Ovi’s kindness, he’s seemed lukewarm about being taken care of by his teammate.
At Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Sunday morning, a dozen reporters and three photographers watched EvgenyKuznetsov skate around for 45 minutes. It was eight in the morning and he was the only player on the ice. Fans held up signs welcoming him in Russian and wore his KHL jersey in the stands. The day before, Kuznetsov had signed a two-year entry-level contract with Washington, ending a four year battle to bring him over from the KHL after being drafted 26th overall by the Capitals in 2010.
“My contract is over,” Kuznetsov told reporters gathered in the Kettler conference room. “I’m excited. All is good.”
“Any hockey player wants to play in the NHL, wants to win the Cup,” he added. “It’s my dream to play in the NHL. I’m happy to see you. I’m ready 100 percent. I want to play.”
If the Caps squeak into the playoffs, you might have to thank Karl Alzner. Not for his defense — something a bit lacking on the Caps lately — but his offense. With 10:15 left in an important game against the Phoenix Coyotes, Karl unleashed a wrist shot from the near point, which went through traffic before beating Mike Smith over his right shoulder. Though Washington looked lifeless for the first 50 minutes, that goal ignited an incredible comeback, featuring two goals in 32 seconds and two points in the standings.
“I was excited,” Alzner told reporters after the game. “Everyone seemed really excited. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that it was me who scored it and not a guy who normally scores, but people seemed really up after that. It was the perfect momentum swing and the perfect line to come out right after that. It was the perfect storm for us.”
On June 25 2010, the Washington Capitals selected Evgeny Kuznetsov 26th overall. They saw him as one of the top players in the draft. He had only fallen so low, the Capitals thought, because some teams were uncertain when or if he would come to North America. George McPhee thought he could bring the 18-year-old Russian over within a year. One thousand three hundred fifty-two days later, Kuznetsov signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Caps.
“We’ve been working on it for four years,” McPhee told reporters before Washington’s game against Phoenix on Saturday. “It’s kind of like seeing the Loch Ness Monster when he walked in. We’ve heard of you, but we haven’t seen you. There he was and I found it hard to believe he was standing there after all this. It’s a pretty neat feeling that this kid’s in the fold and he’s a pretty darn good player.”
But more than that, Neuvy was a homegrown prospect who worked his tush off to make it to the big league team and succeed. Let’s just forget about that one bad interviewhe did.
On Friday night, Neuvirth took the ice for the first time with the Buffalo Sabres. And it was super weird. Wearing his Capitals-themed mask, Capitals colored pads and gloves, and red, white, and blue stick, Neuvy made 42 saves (one off his career high) in the Sabres 2-0 loss to Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers.
Before the Capitals had another one of those games against the Flyers on Wednesday night, Mike Vogel interviewed Brooks Laich following the morning skate. With the trade deadline fast approaching, things were very tense. Very serious. And then Nicklas Backstrom made a cameo.
Coming into the 2014 NHL trade deadline, some fans feared Caps general manager George McPhee would make a drastic move in the hopes of securing a playoff spot. Instead, he made three reasonable ones. The Caps got better this year without harming themselves in the future.
The biggest deal was the final one, with the Caps sending Michal Neuvirth and the newly acquired Rostislav Klesla to the Buffalo Sabres for Caps killer Jaroslav Halak and a third-round pick.
“I think we start with Neuvirth, and he wasn’t happy being a number two,” McPhee told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “We tried to accommodate him. We brought in an experienced guy. I think it’s an upgrade on the tandem which is what we wanted to accomplish.”