Evgeny Kuznetsov is one of the most skilled centermen in the NHL, but his defense, at times, has gotten a bad rap. Under Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette though, the Russian centerman has been utilized in a more defensive posture, posting career-highs in penalty-kill minutes over the last two seasons.
Wednesday, with Nick Jensen and Martin Fehervary out injured and only four rearguards available, Laviolette was ready to go to the next level with Kuzy, and unleash Defendy TheNetsov.
“If it gets to overtime, you’re looking for different type players on the ice,” Laviolette said. “We were ready to use Kuzy on the backend. [The team] handled the adversity and played a really strong game.”
But one new role Kuznetsov did see was on the power play. With John Carlson out of the lineup and Erik Gustafsson traded to Toronto, Laviolette utilized five forwards on his extra man unit against Anaheim and made Kuznetsov the quarterback. Carrying the puck often during entries, Kuzy played in Carlson’s normal spot and was first back to defend when Anaheim cleared or tried to attack in the offensive zone.
Kuzy’s added defensive responsibilities are not a surprise for those who have been following the Chelyabinsk native’s entire career. A huge admirer of Pavel Datsyuk, Kuznetsov did his college thesis on penalty killing. During Capitals practice, Kuznetsov will sometimes suit up as a netminder or just play in goal for fun.
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) January 4, 2018
Kuzy The Goalie also made a brief appearance in the Capitals’ recent game against the San Jose Sharks. With the Capitals’ goaltender pulled for an extra man, Kuznetsov went in front of the net to stop the Sharks’ pot shots at the empty net. It was incredible?
Sure, we have come to appreciate Kuzy flapping his wings like an eagle after scoring goals, but I am finding even more joy when he defends his figurative nest like a Mama Eagle protecting her young.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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