After his first full season in the NHL, Evgeny Kuznetsov’s play has convinced his head coach that the Caps’ hole at second-line center is filled. But some of the underlying numbers indicate Kuznetsov still has some work to do if he wants to be a second-line center on a contending team.
We have some breaking Caps travel news to report. Caps Russians Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov boarded a flight at Dulles this afternoon and flew home. Orlov said in his caption, “Have a good summer everyone” in English while sporting some ridiculous slippers.
Dianna Russini asked Doreen Gentzler to spell the name of Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer. Easy peasy. Then Jim Vance rifled off the name of Redskins center Kory Lichtensteiger suspiciously – almost too suspiciously – fast. Once they were done with those DC sports scrubs, Russini got to a real superstar: Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Before the season, Kuznetsov participated in the NHL Rookie Challenge. Upper Deck asked him to come up with the most creative goal celebration he could imagine. (I’m guessing this came after the figure skating.) Kuznetsov did not disappoint.
Kuznetsov first shared the news on Instagram with a photo of his new daughter’s tiny feet. His caption reads in Russian: “I am a dad. Thank you for my daughter, my love.” On Twitter, he says pretty much the same thing, but refers to himself as Batya, which means father in Russian.
On Saturday, Evgeny Kuznetsov visited his local fire station, Fire Station 4 in Clarendon, bearing gifts. The newly minted 23-year-old was also in need of some help. I’ll let Nate Hiner, a firefighter there, explain.
Unlike fellow Russian teammate Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov has remained in DC since the season ended. On Tuesday, Kuznetsov celebrated his 23rd birthday with friends at Mari Vanna, a Russian restaurant on Connecticut Avenue. As per Russian tradition (I guess), there were terrifyingly large sparklers (how the building didn’t burn down, I don’t know) and a birthday cake. Also clapping. Lots of clapping.
Evgeny Kuznetsov was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2010. It took him four years to come over to North America. He could have left in 2012, but he signed a contract extension to stay with hometown team, Traktor Chelyabinsk. With that decision, it became easy to stereotype him as another Russian who chose the motherland and lots of tax-free money over playing in the best league in the world. But last year, Kuznetsov finally signed with the Capitals. With that contract now up, Kuznetsov, as he has before, tacitly admitted it was a mistake to stay in Russia when he spoke to reporters on breakdown day.
“When I came last year, I don’t understand yet what is this NHL,” Kuznetsov said. “Right now I know what is this.”
Braden Holtby is that good. He has been the best goalie of the playoffs, posting a .951 save percentage through 11 games. But on Sunday night, the New York Rangers offense finally broke through. They jumped out to a 4-1 lead before the Capitals almost pulled off an unbelievable comeback. For the first time this postseason, we saw Holtby crack. Washington’s faith in him, however, is unshaken. They were not interested in talking about Henrik Lundqvist, who turned aside 42 shots in Washington’s one-goal defeat.
“Our goalie’s better,” Evgeny Kuznetsov, defiant in his postgame media scrum, said. “I don’t know what you want to listen from my mouth, but our goalie’s better.”