Key Stat: Evgeny Kuznetsov, the guy who “disappeared,” “didn’t show up,” and “wasn’t worth the hype” in previous postseasons, received five (5) of eighteen first-place votes for the Conn Smythe Trophy en route to the Capitals winning the Stanley Cup. He was the only player besides Alex Ovechkin to receive any.
Interesting Stat: Kuznetsov, the undisputed heavyweight king of the derisive “SHOOOOOT ITTTTT!!!” cheers from the 400s-level, recorded more shots than any Capitals forward not named Ovechkin in the regular season (187) and the playoffs (89).
He stepped up his shooting in the playoffs, increasing from 2.36 shots per regular season game to 3.71 shots per playoff game. https://t.co/Fwb6CKZMDG— Jason Rogers (@HeyJayJRogers) July 11, 2018
The Good: What can you say about Evgeny Kuznetsov that hasn’t already been said about motor oil?
He’s slick. He’s synonymous with dirty hands. And he keeps the whole machine running smoothly.
The Boy Who Scored, a newly-minted 62.4 million dollar man, had absolutely everything to prove this season. He met every expectation, and incredibly, then some.
He led the world champion Washington Capitals (I’m going to continue to take every opportunity to write that) in assists (56) and game-winning goals (8), executing the role of top-line center with peachy aplomb.
He dropped a career-high 83 points on opponents, good for second on the Capitals and 19th in the entire NHL. Of those, 27 were goals, also a career-high for the dazzling puck percolator who all too often passed before pulling the trigger. When I think about that, I recall this quote he gave me in the Capital One Arena locker room after Alex Ovechkin scored his 600th career goal:
All-timer from Kuzy on #Ovi600— Jason Rogers (@HeyJayJRogers) March 13, 2018
“That’s huge, you know. When you look at those numbers here, you don’t even think, ‘Five ninety-nine, six hundred, eh...,’ but then when you understand, you go, ‘Holy f***, that’s a lot of goals,’ you know? I can’t score 20 in a year, this is 600!”
Laugh ‘em to death, and rip twenty-seven potstickers while you’re at it.
Of course, no center worth his borscht is any good without providing a little help for his friends. To that end, Kuzy picked more apples than Mott’s. He led the Capitals at even strength with 1.54 assists per 60, lifting himself to 26th among all skaters in the NHL. When you drill into that and ask, Well was he really creating those chances?, the answer is a resounding да. Kuznetsov’s primary assists put him eleventh in the NHL.
All this while logging 18:49 of average TOI, the most in his career.
And in the playoffs, when there was immortality to be grasped and pedals to be flattened to their metallic termini? Kuznetsov found another level, and turned it up even more. He led the Capitals in points (32) and assists (20) in the postseason, and staked his name to the 10th best even strength points/60 (2.84) and 12th best assists/60 (1.74) of any player in the NHL fighting for the Stanley Cup.
All this while Bird Cellying his way into our hearts.
There's that @Kuzya92 celly. pic.twitter.com/HrBqNZ105P— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) May 8, 2018
And @Kuzya92 with a great celly. pic.twitter.com/GhUp0fFqR7— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) May 6, 2018
Oh, and....you know....he eliminated the Penguins.
The Bad: I mean......what do you want me to say?
He wasn’t very good at faceoffs, which is disappointing for a top-line center. His 44.2% in the circle was the worst of all Washington centers, and worse than eight other schlubs like Devante Smith-Pelly and Jakub Vrana who had to take them simply because the regular guy got kicked out of the dot. Sure, Jay Beagle probably took any faceoff of consequence, anyway. But with him now in Vancouver and Kuznetsov receiving a princely sum of money from Mr. Ted Leonsis to play center, that might be an area to practice and improve.
Kuznetsov’s Season, Game-by-Game (via HockeyViz, explained here):
Kuznetsov and His Linemates (chart by @muneebalamcu):
Kuznetsov’s 5v5 Teammates and Competition (via HockeyViz, explained here):
Kuznetsov’s 5v5 Usage (chart by @muneebalamcu):
Kuznetsov’s With-or-Without You (via HockeyViz, explained here):
Kuznetsov’s Rolling Shot-Attempt (Corsi) -For Percentage (chart by @muneebalamcu):
Kuznetsov’s Player Traits and Performance (chart by @RK_Stimp, data by @ShutdownLine, Tableau here):
The Vote: Rate Kuznetsov below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: At this point, are you happy with Kuznetsov’s contract? Do you feel he still needs to shoot more? Do you like the Bird Celly? What would it take for you to give him a “10” next year?
Other Kuznetsov Season Reviews: Peerless, RMNB
How do you rate Evgeny Kuznetsov’s 2017-18 season?
This poll is closed