The Washington Capitals have been on Christmas Break ever since Monday’s thrilling 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
So what has everyone been up to? I’m glad you asked.
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin became one of the most popular hockey players in the world partly due to his creativity in the NHL’s Breakaway Challenge over the years. He’s won the competition three times (2008, 2009, 2011). This is why Team Foligno picked him to compete again this year in Columbus. Unfortunately, he did not win.
While Ovechkin brought the creativity, he left his execution in Washington. His final attempt, where he took baseball swings at lob passes from fellow Russian Vladimir Tarasenko, was his most captivating.
Evgeny Kuznetsov is introduced to the crowd. (Photo credit: KHL All-Star Game site)
Our all-Evgeny Kuznetsov/all-the-time policy continues with this contractually obligated recap of the 2012 KHL All-Star Game and SuperSkills competition held in Riga, Latvia, on Saturday.
Kuznetsov nearly won in both the Fastest Skater and Breakaway Challenge. He also tallied a goal and an assist for Team Fedorov in their 15-11 win over Team Ozolins during the All-Star Game.
Below the jump, we’ve recapped our favorite moments from the the KHL’s signature event.
Evgeny Kuznetsov speeds down the middle during Traktor’s game against Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk (Photo credit: Vitaly Gubin, Traktor PR Service)
Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov, currently sitting in the top 15 in both goals and points (12g, 12a), was named a KHL All-Star for the second time on Monday. Unlike last season, Kuznetsov was overwhelmingly voted in as a starter this year by fans and will represent “Team Fedorov” of the Eastern conference. The 19-year-old Traktor Chelyabinsk forward finished second overall in total votes (33,800), trailing only Mikelis Redlihs of the Western Conference’s “Team Ozolins.”
To put Kuznetsov’s immense popularity in perspective, consider that he garnered more votes than reigning MVP Alexander Radulov, Roman Cervenka (the KHL’s leading scorer), Vladimir Tarasenko, and Russian National Team Captain Alexei Morozov.
Recently, Sovetsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov did a lengthy feature story on Kuznetsov, who some have called the new face of the KHL. Like most interviews with Russian players, the story starts off with questions about Vityaz Chekhov, who was recently beaten by Traktor on the scoreboard and tried to beat them back with their fists.
Most importantly to Caps fans, Kuznetsov discussed his possible NHL future, his contract situation, and who he idolized as a kid. Below the jump, I have the translation.
Russia’s Captain, Ilya Nikulin, holds the Karjala Cup; Kuznetsov gets mugged in front of the net.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, the Russian National Team’s youngest player at 19, once again proved his mettle and how lucky-a**ed (Kuzya called himself that during last year’s WJC) he can be in clutch situations. With ten seconds left and Russia stuck in a 1-1 tie with the Czech Republic, Kuznetsov — currently leading the KHL in game-winners this season — potted his only goal of the tournament. Not only did the tally give Russia the win in their final tournament game, it also clinched them the 2011 Karjala Cup.
Video of his goal can be seen below the jump.
Traktor Chelyabinsk’s four-game road trip came to an end today. Over seven days the team traveled from Chelyabinsk to Kazan (two time zones away), Moscow, Mytyschi (which is basically also Moscow), and Riga (three time zones away). After accumulating nine out of twelve standings points and more than 3,200 miles during the trip, the White Bears now return home for a five-day break from KHL action.
Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov ended a three-game pointless drought today, scoring a late third period goal against Dinamo Riga.
Despite winning gold at the World Junior Championships and putting up one of the best years ever recorded by a 18-year-old in Russia, Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov spent most of last year playing through pain. The reason? A nagging shoulder injury that never completely healed after offseason surgery.
So Kuznetsov, who revealed to reporters in December that he struggled doing push-ups, flew back to Germany and went under the knife again in April. Thirteen and a half weeks later — with a renegotiated contract with Traktor and wife in hand — Kuznetsov seems optimistic of a full recovery.
Sport.ru’s Andrey Osadchenko recently spoke with the now 19-year-old and the two discussed a variety of topics. Most notably for Caps fans, Kuznetsov said that he has been looking at real estate in the D.C. area and plans to play for the Capitals in 2012-13.
Below, RMNB’s Igor Kleyner has your translation.
Before the 2010 draft, the highest-rated Russian prospect, Vladimir Tarasenko, was asked what some scouts thought to be a simple question: “Who’s better between you and Evgeny Kuznetsov?”
Tarasenko recalled his answer in a December 29th Sports.ru interview:
I said, “I don’t know.” They said, “You must answer.” I said, “Kuznetsov.” They asked, “Why did you pick him?” I responded, “Ask Zhenya and he’ll say Tarasenko’s better.” I explained it’s a speciality of the Russians. Unlike Canadians, we’ll never say, “I’m the best.”
Lately, the Capitals’ top prospect has played so well that maybe Tarasenko’s humility was more objective fact than “Russian mentality”. Let’s consider Kuznetsov’s achievements over the past few weeks.
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