Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Russian scoring contest

Watching Evgeny Kuznetsov skate circles around the opposing goalie’s net without losing the puck or getting touched by defenders as he dishes to Dmitry Orlov for the game winner against the Jets shows the wait for his presence in the Caps lineup was worth it. Former General Manager George McPhee knew the skill Kuznetsov would bring to the Caps.  It makes the loss of Filip Forsberg, a bad and desperate GMGM move, a tiny bit less painful. Also, Forsberg is a winger while Kuznetsov is the second line center the Caps have needed since Alex Ovechkin entered the league ten years ago.

Kuznetsov’s first full season with the Caps came as Coach Barry Trotz installed his new system and taught team accountability. It is probably a good thing that he did not spend too much time in Washington before that. His full potential started shining in the playoffs last season with his 5G-2A-7P and plus-14 in his 14 playoff games. This season he started as the Caps first line center, while NIcklas Backstrom recovered from offseason hip surgery, in between Alex Ovechkin and new Capital, T. J. Oshie. Kuznetsov flourished on the first line, capped by his 3 assist night in Calgary and 5 point night in Edmonton within three days. He plays smart, poised hockey, beyond his 23-years.

In 23 games this season, Kuznetsov has 8G-18A-26P and is plus-14. His 18 assists and 26 points puts him at 6th place in the NHL, while his plus/minus is good for 4th. The other half of the Russian scoring contest, Alex Ovechkin, in 22 games, has 12G-10A-22P and is plus-12, good for 5th in the NHL with his goal scoring is also 5th in the NHL. Last season in the playoffs, Ovie generated 5G-4A-9P, 2 assists better than Kuznetsov, but was a minus-3. This contest should be fun to watch all season and Kuznetsov can push Ovie. Ovie, the Capitals leading point generator throughout the majority of his tenure, is currently behind his Russian teammate by four points. That should keep Ovie focused and that can only be good for the Caps.

Throw in the offensive minded Russian defenseman, Dmitry Orlov, part of the Russian troika, with Ovie and Kuznetsov, that won the overtime versus the Florida Panthers on a Kuznetsov goal with assists from the other two, and there is lots of scoring potential from the Russian Capitals. Let’s hope Russian scoring continues, in droves, throughout the season, and way past April.

Let’s go Caps!

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