Despite being just 22 years old, it feels like people have been waiting for Evgeny Kuznetsov to make “the leap” for quite some time … only that leap was once just jumping from the KHL to the NHL.
He did that in abbreviated fashion last season, scoring three goals and nine points in 17 games while showing flashes of the first-round brilliance prospect-minded people have been touting for some time.
With Mikhail Grabovski headed to Long Island, new Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said that he’ll probably open up competition for second and third-line center spots between Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky. One would think Kuznetsov has a strong chance of at least grabbing that third-line job, yet that might come down to how well he meshes with Trotz and how much his game has progressed over the summer.
Former Capitals coach Adam Oates cautioned himself against the “wow factor” with Kuznetsov, which is an understandable fear when you consider the kind of game-breaking ability he showed, especially on this memorable assist against the Vancouver Canucks:
Even among NHL head coaches, Trotz is noted for favoring stability over sizzle. With that in mind, this sobering analysis from Japers Rink might prompt some to worry if the new Caps coach can overlook Kuznetsov’s defensive lapses:
Yes, it’s a small sample and he was new to NHL hockey, but Kuznetsov’s possession numbers were horrible. Only Tyson Strachan, Julien Brouillette, and Aaron Volpatti had worse Corsi percentages (add Patrick Wey to the Fenwick list). Even acknowledging that the season in which he joined the Caps was a complete cluster, and that he played with grinders as much as he played with skill guys, every player that skated 32 minutes or more with Kuznetsov had better numbers without Kuznetsov, usually by a lot (and it’s not because skating with Kuznetsov meant taking tougher defensive assignments).
In other words, there might be some “high-risk, high-reward” elements to the younger player’s game at this stage … which might only make him more interesting to watch during the 2014-15 season.
Former NHL defenseman Mike Commodore may have been coached by Mike Babcock, but that doesn’t mean he’s a fan of Mike Babcock.
Commodore played in just 17 games for the Detroit Red Wings during the 2011-12 season and that was enough for him to muster up some pretty harsh feelings toward his old coach.
As Babcock’s new team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, were being embarrassed in Detroit on Friday, Commodore took to Twitter to show fans just how much he was enjoying his former coach’s struggles.
Things got especially interesting after Red Wings rookie Dylan Larkin scored just 20 seconds into the second period to give Detroit a 3-0 lead.
“3-0 nothin Babs you posing arrogant piece of (bleep),” said Commodore via his Twitter page. “Welcome back to the rink where everyone that met you hates you.”
Commodore wasn’t done there:
And there was much, much more.
To get a look at all of Commodore’s Babcock-bashing tweets, click here.
Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.
Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.
Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.
The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.
“When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.
Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.
The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.
“It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”