Washington Capitals: Evgeny Kuznetsov Has Slowed Down, But How Much

I said this earlier in the season. Going forward, Evgeny Kuznetsov will have a microscope on him. That probably started a couple of seasons ago, it’s not likely to go anywhere. That’s what happens when you are a star in your sport. Some have the microscope for good reason, others for less good reasons.

Kuznetsov was definitely the less good reason. The 29-year-old Russian center, in my opinion, when he is on his game is one of the top ten players in the entire National Hockey League. When he is on his game he needs to be mentioned with the McDavid’s, the Draisaitl’s, the MacKinnon’s, the Ovechkin’s, the Crosby’s, etc. He has that amount of skill and talent. It was just in recent seasons he rarely showed it.

To start this season, he showed it, and man was he good. Number 92 was flying all over the ice. He was creating chances for his teammates and creating chances for himself. He was putting up a bunch of points as well, at one point he was on pace for about 120 points. I think most people, including myself, doubted that he was going to stay on that pace. If he played like he did early this season though, 120 was probably doable.

Kuznetsov has unfortunately cooled off, or slowed down a bit. That’s not to say he’s been bad. In a world where everything has to be black and white, you’re right or you’re wrong, what I’m going to say and point out in a second I’m sure people will think I am in fact saying Kuznetsov is playing terribly again. He’s not! Lets get rid of that argument before it happens.

If you’re watching the Washington Capitals you will surely be able to tell that Kuznetsov  is not as good as he was earlier in the season. Kuznetsov has slipped into that habit of when you watch a game you have to go looking for him to notice him. Again, it’s better than previous seasons where you would go games without seeing him. Now you will still see him do something maybe a couple of times a game.

But this is a trend that I’ve started to notice from him in recent games. I’ve ignored for a while now. Most players will go through streaks where they just don’t have it as much as other times. It happens. You just hope it doesn’t last very long.

The Capitals and Kuznetsov have now played in 19 games this season. That’s almost a 10/10 split we can look at. 10/9 is good enough for us right now. So Lets go ahead and take a look at Kuznetsov’s on ice stats from the first ten games and his most recent nine games. We’ll start with his first ten games.

*We should point out, all of these stats are 5v5, not total.*

CF% – 54.35

Scoring Chance For %  – 55.91

High Danger Attempts For % – 62.50

Expected Goals For % – 60.23

Those numbers helped him get 3 goals and 4 points. Not the best numbers to put up in 10 games, but he did have a lot of power play points to help him out and reward him. He also had 16 shots in those ten games. Something that was easy to notice then was how often he was shooting to puck rather than passing and sometimes forcing passes.

This energized Kuznetsov was one of the best Capitals in terms of creating chances. In the first tens games he had 20 individual scoring chances. That was third on the team. He also created 12 individual high danger attempts. That was the best on the Capitals during that opening ten games.

Now lets take a look at his most recent nine games.

CF% – 45.38

Scoring Chance For %  – 37.88

High Danger Attempts For % – 35.42

Expected Goals For % – 41.10

As you can see, those numbers have taken a pretty good drop. This pointing out what I said earlier, he’s been harder to notice on the ice recently.

In those last nine games Kuznetsov has just 10 shots. So he isn’t shooting as much. He has just 11 individual scoring chances. He’s getting just over one chance per game compared to getting two per game earlier in the season. He also has just 5 individual high danger attempts, or about half a chance a game.

The stupidness of hockey comes up here when talking about Kuznetsov. We all know how dumb this sport can be, right? One team can be dominating, getting all the chances, then the other team gets hardly a shot on net, it takes a weird bounce and the team that is dominating is suddenly down a goal. It’s a weird sport.

When Kuznetsov was playing better at the start of the season, while 5v5 he had just 4 points. Now that he has cooled a bit, the numbers have taken a pretty good dive, he has 7 points in just nine games. He is still putting up points, at the end of the day, that’s really all that matters.

However, one thing that Kuznetsov is not doing recently is scoring goals. Currently, he has 6 goals in nineteen games. He scored 5 of those goals in the first seven games of the season. He is currently in a spell of potting just one goal in his last 12 games.

He has definitely slowed down, there is no doubt about that. So far, his poor from this season is way above his poor from previous seasons. As I said earlier, in the last few seasons you could have told me Kuznetsov didn’t play in a lot of games and I would have believed you.

While he isn’t as noticeable as we was in the first ten games of the year he is still playing pretty good. Hopefully the points keep coming or maybe we will have to revisit these underlying stats and him not being as noticeable in the not so distant future.