On Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, Evgeny Kuznetsov had his first prime scoring chance in the NHL. After Karl Alzner unleashed a rare bomb from the point, Penguins goaltender Marc-André Fleury blocked the shot with his pad and kicked the puck back out to the slot.
There Kuznetsov stood, his eyes growing wide. Like a dude who had already scored 20 goals in the league before, Kuzya patiently gathered the puck in, put it on his forehead, and chipped it hard towards the net.
Wednesday night, the Washington Capitals held their fourth annual Casino Night at the Pentagon City Sheraton. Fans had the opportunity blow fake money gambling with their favorite players, as well as dishing out real money on a live auction featuring big-ticket experiences, a silent auction on equipment and memorabilia, and a raffle. The money made from Casino Night will benefit the Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation. The team has raised nearly $1 million on past Casino Nights, and the live auction this year took in over $40,000.
“We did a got of research on craps,” Karl Alzner, who was there with his wife Mandy as well as her mom and grandparents, told me. “The correct throw and the technique and all that.”
“Even though it’s play money it’s still a lot of fun,” Alzner added. “We get to dress up.”
When I talked to Tom Wilson about the night, he had one main takeaway.
“Ovi’s pretty risky,” Wilson said.
Below, take a look at some of my photos from the night.
It is silly to compare Evgeny Malkin (500+ games, Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, Hart, two Art Ross Trophies) to Evgeny Kuznetsov (one game, 10 minutes on ice)– even if they were born a couple hundred miles away from one other– basically the same neighborhood by Russian standards.
Then again, it’s also fun, which is why people have been doing it for awhile– including Valery Belousov, Kuznetsov’s old coach at Traktor and the man who oversaw Malkin’s development at Magnitogorsk.
Playing for a team on the wrong side the playoff line, Kuznetsov seemed to understand the gravity of his situation as he spoke in Russian after the game to Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo Sports, Igor Tichonenko of Voice of America, and yours truly. Zhenya didn’t really want to talk about his individual performance, no matter how much it probably meant to him. The team lost, he wasn’t able to help, and that’s what was on his mind.
Here is the translation of our short conversation.
Then almost four years went by. But now we’re here. Kuzya has suited up for this first ever NHL game– a homer against Metro rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins. Thanks to the hard work of Hana Imiolczyk, we’ll have all your GIF-y updates right here.
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.
Sunday was Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s first full day as an official Washington Capital, and we were all over it. Our intrepid reporters were at Kettler Capitals Iceplex first thing in the morning, taking photos, and covering his first press conference. But we also got a couple minutes with the man himself to chat in his native tongue.
RMNB’s own Igor Kleyner and Kuznetsov chatted about his first few hours in Washington, expectations for the Penguins game, and comparisons to Evgeni Malkin. Igor’s got your translation below.
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.”