I want to start by saying I genuinely like Barry Trotz. I think he’s a good man and a good coach. He’s brought with him to Washington some of the brightest minds in hockey, he’s reversed a decline in the organization, and he’s helped Alex Ovechkin become a more complete player. I don’t think Trotz has gotten enough credit for that. He is exactly what fans wanted last summer: an experienced head coach.

But now that we’re more than halfway through the season, I see some worrying trends in this organization that reach all the way down to the AHL level.

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Right on the nose!

Evgeny Kuznetsov got high-sticked by Michael Del Zotto during a power play late in the second period. The impact was so violent that it almost ripped off Kuzy’s helmet.

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Troy Brouwer just used some hustle to create one of the most unlikely goals of the season. After a turnover in the offensive zone, Brouwer dove and reached out with his stick. Brouwer managed to steal the puck from a Ducks player and sweep it back into the zone before it crossed the blue line, which would have put his team offsides.

The puck went right to Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuzy and Jason Chimera raced against Ilya Bryzgalov on a two-on-none. The Russian winger passed to Ice Cheetah, who buried it in Bryz’s five-hole.

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Twenty-nine-year-old forward Troy Brouwer is celebrating his 500th career game on Tuesday. No better way to commemorate the milestone than scoring a memorable goal against the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

Plus, this is a good excuse to share the ridiculous signs from the Brouwer Rangers.

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Why does he look like he’s playing Diablo in his sweatpants? (Photo: @Nail10_1993

I wasn’t the only one impressed by Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s shootout move. Tuesday night after the lowly Edmonton Oilers defeated the Caps 5-4, Nail Yakupov, the first overall pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, tweeted his friend and fellow countryman.

Fedor was nice enough to translate their entire exchange, which surprisingly had nothing to do with late night filings and Ivan Drago.

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Even though Evgeny Kuznetsov is goalless in his last 12 games and scoreless in his last seven, he’s been dangerous lately every time he’s had the puck on his stick. On Wednesday night, the Capitals’ debonair dangler deked Oilers goaltender Viktor Fasth onto his rear and scored a most beautiful shootout goal.

(Someone had to do some paralyzing since Matt Hendricks didn’t get an attempt.)

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Photo: Frederick Breedon

Last night, as I wrote about Alex Ovechkin fulfilling the birthday wish of a five-year-old at practice, I noticed something in the bottom left corner of Chuck Gormley’s photo. (My crazy art school eagle eyes see all the pixels.) It was a glove, and that glove had a special inscription.

I fired up the RMNB Enhancing Machine.

Turns out it’s Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s glove and it is stitched with the name KUZY. Take a look.

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evgeny-kuznetsov-pass

In the first half of the season, Evgeny Kuznetsov was a shadow of what he should have been. Learning to play a new position and adjusting to new tactics and a new language, Kuznetsov struggled. He sometimes looked lost in the new Caps system.

But in the last week Evgeny Kuznetsov has looked like a superstar in the making.

Behold these two passes authored by Kuzy in the second period.

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Kuznetsov

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Before this season, Evgeny Kuznetsov had only played sparingly at center in his hockey career. But with the Capitals lacking in center depth, head coach Barry Trotz has tried to convert Kuznetsov and fellow rookie Andre Burakovsky into pivots. Both struggled earlier in the year, with Burakovsky getting scratched and eventually moving back to wing. But Kuznetsov has stuck and is finally adjusting to the new role. Against the Avalanche on Monday night, Kuznetsov was an offensive force, with four shots on net, a shot off the crossbar, and a myriad of drives past the Colorado defense.

“He’s got really good vision, he’s got great hands, and he’s skating well,” Trotz said after the game. “I think his puck protection has been really good, his detail in the D-zone has been really good. You get chances, you’re gonna produce. I think he’s a very talented guy.”

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Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Pretty much every time the Caps face off against a team with Russians, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov hold court with their countrymen in the hallway just off the visitor’s bench.

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