Washington Capitals’ center Evgeny Kuznetsov believes some “couch experts” are off in how they talk about the team’s objectives as Alex Ovechkin enters the twilight of his career.
Just because the Capitals are trying to field a competitive team that will help Ovechkin overtake Wayne Gretzky’s goals record, doesn’t mean the players on the ice are “purposely” playing for it, says Kuzy. This nuance is important to him.
Kuznetsov made the comments while speaking on the Hockey on Kinopoisk podcast. During the interview, he also notably spoke about his reported trade request and criticism he received from Wayne Gretzky on his super slow shootout move.
Kuznetsov was first asked if the “main task of Washington for the coming years” was not team results, but Ovechkin setting the record.
“These are couch experts discussing,” Kuznetsov said and as transcribed by Sports.ru’s Ekaterina Podgornaya. “Any normal person who is involved in hockey understands that he will beat [Gretzky] anyway. It’s a matter of time here.
“Therefore, there is no such task, there was not and will not be, in order to purposefully play for Sasha. I think it’s stupid. Because it can’t be done. It doesn’t make sense. He will still beat him. And we will still celebrate it together.”
Kuznetsov is basically spouting my favorite quote in a very Hockey Kuzy way: If you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves. If the team focuses on playing its best every shift to try and win a Stanley Cup, Ovi’s individual achievement will take care of itself.
Kuznetsov was also asked by the podcast if he ever discussed chasing Gretzky with his future Hall of Fame teammate.
“No, what is there to discuss?” Kuznetsov asked. “It is clear that [Ovi] will score. It’s just a matter of time here. In general, we rarely discuss hockey among ourselves. We try to talk more on some other topics. Because there is so much hockey in our life.
“Therefore, our task is different – to move away from hockey for a couple of hours, when we sit at dinner or spend time somewhere else.”
There are specific times when Capitals players like Kuznetsov have intentionally fed Ovechkin the puck – such as the night he passed Gordie Howe for second on the all-time goals list or attempts at hat tricks.
“If I score over there, half of the world probably will be so mad at me,” Kuznetsov said after he forced a pass back to Ovechkin along the boards for an empty-net goal in December 2022 — the 802nd of Ovi’s career.
The confusion about the Capitals playing for Ovi’s goals record likely stems from comments Brian MacLellan made to The Athletic in October 2022.
“Our franchise wants him (Ovechkin) to finish his career with us,” MacLellan said. “The guy is chasing Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky. Why would we let him walk away and do it somewhere else?
“So it kind of sets the direction of your franchise once you do that. Because you’re committing to him to finish his career, and he has some individual goals, but you have to have a competitive team if you’re doing that.”
Kuznetsov makes it clear in this interview that the players are focused on bigger team goals than helping their buddy reach immortality, which he will do anyway.
When asked if he’d rather win a second Stanley Cup or Olympic gold, Kuzy replied, “Another Stanley Cup.”
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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