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.
It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.
As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?
If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.
Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.
Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.
The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.
On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.
Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.
The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.
You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.
At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.
Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.
(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)
As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.
Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.
Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.
Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.
Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:
That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.
Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.
For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.
Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.
Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:
Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.
Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.
The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.