When Daniel Winnik got traded to the Washington Capitals late last month, we figured the grinding forward would get an offensive boost playing with DC’s high end talent. We just didn’t realize how easy they would make it for him.
With the Capitals trailing 1-0, Winnik jumped on the ice in the waning seconds of a Capitals power play. Braden Holtby and Evgeny Kuznetsov, however, weren’t quite done with their work on the man-advantage. Despite the seconds ticking down, Holtby fed Kuznetsov puck the puck in the Capitals’ zone off off a brilliant, high-flying breakout pass that easily found the Russian forward.
“That’s something we try to do in the past, usually at the end of the power play when you’re not worried about changing or anything like that,” Holtby said of the play. “You’re trying to get it into their zone at the end of the power play. You know Kuzy’s gonna make those reads. He read it well.”
Photo: Bruce Bennett
Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, Evgeny Kuznetsov made some nice sauce, registering his league-leading 37th primary assist of the season on Alex Ovechkin’s OTGWG. The point was Kuznetsov’s 70th on the year, making him the 12th player in Caps history to register 20 goals and 50 assists in a season. Kuznetsov’s 70 points also leads the Capitals.
If the Chelyabinsk native ends the year on top, he would be the first Capital not named Ovechkin or Backstrom to lead the team in scoring since 2003-04 when Robert Lang put up 70 points. Kuznetsov’s dominant play this season is a far cry from his initial struggles during parts of his first two seasons in the league.
Earlier this week, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz spoke to Igor Rabiner of Sports-Express about Kuznetsov’s growth as a player, and he revealed his master plan for turning Kuzy into the next Pavel Datsyuk.
A few weeks ago, RMNB’s Chris Gordon asked Evgeny Kuznetsov about his finger twirl celebration.
“That’s not for you, you know,” Kuznetsov said to Gordon when asked what the inspiration of the celebration was. “You don’t have to know that.”
Kuznetsov said it was a secret, but recently RMNB reader Chris S. (@theSTOEHR) found something that could give us context.
Ever since he arrived in the NHL, Evgeny Kuznetsov has used a pass Joe Beninati has nicknamed the twister. Kuznetsov will begin skating around the net before turning and tossing the puck back behind his body towards the crease. Almost every time Kuznetsov tries the move, it results in a high-quality scoring chance or goal from a Caps player crashing the net.
Naturally, success (Kuznetsov is fifth in the NHL in scoring) brings attention. And I’m guessing Senators star forward Bobby Ryan has been studying the first-time All Star’s move because Tuesday during Ottawa’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Ryan tries the Kuzy Pass From The Kuzy Spot. It had a different wrinkle though. The right-handed Ryan had to put the pass through his own legs to connect with his target, Ryan Dzingel, for the rookie’s third career goal.
For five years, Evgeny Kuznetsov made a name for himself in Russia, dominating the KHL with his hometown team Traktor Chelyabinsk. Three NHL seasons later, Kuznetsov is fifth in scoring (66) and leads the Capitals in points. He even made his first NHL All-Star Game in 2015-16.
To honor Kuznetsov’s success, Bauer Russia painted a mural of Kuzy at their office in Riga Ice Land, an ice skating rink in Moscow. I know this because the hockey equipment manufacturer posted a photo of a tiny mite posing in front of it on Instagram.
Wednesday morning, Team Russia announced the first 16 players on its World Cup of Hockey roster. Among those first 16 were three Capitals players: Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov.
This is the first World Cup of Hockey in 12 years. The last WCH was in 2004 and was won by Canada. Unlike the IIHF World Championships, the World Cup of Hockey is organized by the NHL, with NHL rules, and is timed to not overlap with the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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