Can the Caps Count on Kuzy?

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Posted January 6, 2017

In May 2014, I wrote this about Evgeny Kuznetsov:

The Capitals first round draft pick in 2010, Kuznetsov made his NHL debut on March 8, 2014.  He only played in 17 games but netted 3 goals and 6 assists showing the Caps faithful that he could play with the “big boys.”  Born May 19th, 1992, the almost-22-year-old Russian winger played professionally for Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL before coming to the US and eventually becoming George McPhee’s swan song.

It didn’t take Kuznetsov long to adapt to the NHL.  He’s not only a very skilled player, he’s a smart player with good passing skills and a unique sense of the game.  He is a very welcome addition to the Caps roster.  Even though he arrived a bit late to help the Caps reach the playoffs this year, he was thrown into the fire and proved that he will be a driving force in the 2014-2015 season.

But the young center, affectionately called ‘Kuzy’, would soon experience a disappointing season as the Caps failed to make the playoffs in 2015.  Individually, he had a pretty good first season racking up 37 points – 11g, 26a.  But fans were still waiting for Kuzy to generate the points and excitement that former Caps general manager, George McPhee, had promised.

And, then, it happened.  The 2015-16 season was a different story.  Kuzy was the Caps’ leading scorer with 77 points – 20g, 57a, but he went into a slump at the end of the season.  He didn’t score a goal in the last 20 games of the regular season. He had just one goal and one assist in the playoffs, and the Caps suffered a disappointing loss to the Penguins in the second round.

The 2016-17 season offered a fresh start for the now 24-year-old Russian.  A chance for him to shake it off and regain his confidence, but it hasn’t happened yet. He can’t seem to shake the slump that has plagued him since late last season. In 38 games thus far, Kuzy has only 25 points – 4g, 21a.

Is it that opposing teams got a good look at Kuzy’s scoring techniques early in the 2015-16 season and figured him out?  Has he failed to be imaginative and fresh in order to create scoring chances?  Is he on the wrong line? No matter the answers to these questions, fans know that we need him to succeed in order for the Caps win enough games to get into the playoffs. Kuzy just needs one awesome game, maybe just one masterful goal, to break out of his funk and show that the fun loving, goal scoring phenom is still alive and well. And he may have gotten just that on Tuesday when the Caps beat the Maple Leafs in OT.  Kuzy had his much needed, illusive great game. He scored a goal and had 3 assists.

According to Craig Laughlin, color analyst for CSN, “If anybody needed a goal it was #92.  It does wonders for your ability and the way you carry yourself.”

But Kuzy’s great performance was soon marred when he was fined $2,000 by the NHL Thursday afternoon after his second diving/embellishment incident that occurred during a game against the Devils on Dec. 28.  He also swung the butt-end of his stick towards the Devils bench afterwards, which called even more attention to the incident.  He was given his first warning on October 20 against the Panthers.

Let’s hope Kuzy can stay positive and focus on his talents instead of trying to help the team in desperation.  There’s no glory in taking a dive.

Let’s Go Kuzy! Let’s Go Caps!