For Evgeny Kuznetsov It All Comes Down To This

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

Evgeny Kuznetsov has had a very good season for the Washington Capitals, and quite frankly, for himself. For the past couple of seasons it has not been the smoothest road for the Caps number one center. We won’t go into too much detail, it’s been talked about enough by everybody, myself included.

But the troubles include, declining numbers since the Stanley Cup win in 2018, an off ice issue that got him suspended in 2019, landing on the COVID list multiple times during the 2021 shortened season and not helping the team at the most important time of the year in the playoffs.

All of those things resulted in number ninety-two landing in trade rumors during the off-season in 2021. Kuznetsov had and still has tremendous talent. The issues on the other hand made it harder to trust him and the Capitals were and still are in salary cap troubles. Trading him would have given you a nice return while potentially helping you in the cap department.

The reasons to trade him were there. For many reasons the team decided against dealing the star center and Kuznetsov has rewarded them for that choice.

The 29-year-old has had one of his best seasons of his career. Second best if you want to be exact. He finished with 78 points, that is only behind the 2017-18 season where he had 83 points. You could make the argument that Kuznetsov is the teams MVP this season. If you forced me to give that reward away right now, I would probably chose Alex Ovechkin. The list after him however is very short and I’m guessing a lot of people would put Kuznetsov’s name next, if not first.

That’s how good of a season he has had. After the last couple of season it’s good to see someone once again live up to their potential.

On the other hand, I don’t think it’s unfair at all to say we’re not out of the woods just yet. It’s been a great season for Kuznetsov, but now after months of hockey and hard work the most important time of the year is here. The Stanley Cup playoffs are have arrived. This is the time of the year that you want and expect your stars to deliver.

It’s time for Kuznetsov to deliver.

We all know he can. He led the NHL in playoff scoring in 2018 having 32 points in 24 games. The next closest was Ovechkin who had 27 in 24. Kuznetsov could have easily won the Conn Smythe award as playoff MVP. I guess a lot of people thought Ovechkin was just as good and tie goes to the superstar. Kuznetsov didn’t get the hardware, but you cannot overstate how important he was to that Cup win.

He has done it. He needs to prove he can do it again.

If he does not help the Capitals in these playoffs I believe that puts us back at square one. If Kuznetsov does not play well in the coming days how is this different than last off-season?
If ninety-two underperforms Washington will still have questions about it’s top line center. They will have fallen out of the playoffs way too early for their liking for four straight seasons. It’s an aging team and on top of that it’s a team that will still have some cap problems. That sounds a lot like the 2021 off-season.

The great season has been a terrific thing to see. This was a challenge that Kuznetsov had never seen before and he easily passed the test pretty much all season long.

I will not come out and say that he can’t or won’t play well in the playoffs. I am not in the fortune telling business. What I am here to tell you is simply this. Underperforming in the playoffs in a major reason why Kuznetsov landed in trade rumors in the first place. He is one of the most important players on this Capitals roster. As a result, he is one of the highest paid players on this team.

He needs to prove that he can once again be an impact player at the most important time of the season. If he comes up dull, it was a good season for nothing. If he does not play well in the playoffs, we will go right back to questioning if it’s a good idea to trade him to try to help the team in different ways.

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It’s been a very, very good season for Evgeny Kuznetsov. But for him, it all comes down to this.