Evgeny Kuznetsov was shuffled to the second line after the first scrimmage and his opening period of Scrimmage No. 2 did not get rave reviews. On one play, Kuznetsov got fancy on a breakaway and did not get a shot off. During another shift, Kuzy was wide open and faked a slapshot, before muddling a scoring chance away. Ken Sabourin of Capitals Radio criticized Kuzy for not being aggressive enough offensively – a challenge the Chelyabinsk native has struggled with at times during his career.
As the second period unfolded, the Capitals Radio team pointed out that Kuzy did not take the ice for the first nine minutes — perhaps a benching or perhaps some line shuffling to look at some bubble players. When the Russian center returned for the final half of the game, he was a noticeably different player.
For instance, he scored on a breakaway with a slapshot.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 10, 2021
Instead of dangling, Kuznetsov just wound up and fired NHL98-style past Pheonix Copley, beating the goalie short side. Kuznetsov didn’t celebrate but did break up in laughter as his linemates came over to chrip him because who scores a breakaway goal with a slapshot??
“I was pretty tired at end of the shift,” Kuznetsov explained. “Sometimes this type of thought comes into my head during a game and this time it worked pretty good.”
When asked if Peter Laviolette or another assistant coach gave him a talking to during intermission, Kuznetsov said no.
“The coach was upstairs so he wasn’t on the bench if you paying attention,” he said laughing. “Naw, he didn’t say anything.”
Laviolette indeed watched Team Red and Team White play from the balcony to get a broader view of the gameplay before making cuts Sunday night.
“It’s great to be creative but it can’t be at the expense of opposition coming the other way,” Laviolette said during his post-scrimmage press conference, admitting that there were several turnovers he didn’t like. “That bugged me a little bit.”
Kuznetsov, who is one of the most talented players in the NHL, will be one of Laviolette’s biggest projects whether he knows it yet or not. While Kuznetsov is nearly a point-per-game player over the last three seasons, it comes with a cost. He made virtually every player he skated with worse offensively during the 2019-20 campaign.
the WOWY numbers for Kuzy and Backstrom last season still stun me pic.twitter.com/0eQ6Awl9X2
— G.T.P. (@peterhassett) January 9, 2021
“So far it’s been good,” Kuznetsov said of the hire of Laviolette. “We practice at a good pace. Practice in a good mood. I hope we’re going to grow every day. I think we’re going to prove a lot this year.”
For Kuznetsov, that growth could be key to a deep postseason run or not.
Screenshot courtesy of @Capitals
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