Evgeny Kuznetsov Beginning to Emerge from Slump

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MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 09: Washington Capitals Center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) skating at warmup before the Washington Capitals versus the Montreal Canadiens game on January 9, 2017, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire)

Evgeny Kuznetsov Beginning to Emerge from Slump

During the 2015-16 season, Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov had an outstanding year. In all 82 games played, Kuznetsov tallied 20 goals and 77 points. He had a total of 193 shots on net and an average shooting percentage of 10.4 percent. The season was a special one for the Chelyabinsk native and proved that the his future in the NHL was bright.

Fast forward to this season. Washington has played 40 games, just one shy of marking the halfway point of the season. Kuznetsov has scored five goals and 22 helpers, for a total 27 points. He has 79 shots and a shooting percentage of 6.4 percent. He is projected to finish at about 55 points this season, 22 shy of last year, a year when he led the entire Capitals team in points. The problem? He’s not shooting the puck as much as he would like. Last season, he averaged 2.35 shots per game, whereas this year he is averaging 1.95 shots per game. It is obvious that he likes to pass the puck and set up teammates for goals, his assist count established that. However, he needs to start being more selfish.

Kuznetsov told the Washington Post,

“I always want to pass the puck if I see the guy open. That’s kind of fun. I have to understand that I have to shoot more, but I don’t have something in my mind that, ‘Oh, I’m going to shoot.’ No, it’s just whatever play’s better.”

Hockey is a fast paced game, decisions need to be made right away and there can not be any dwelling. Kuznetsov is a creative player, and knows that is the truth.

“If you look at your whole life back in a couple days, you always want to do something different. “Same in hockey of course. You want to change your mistakes. Sometimes, hockey gives you another opportunity next shift. You just have to take it.”

Going forward, Kuznetsov and the Caps are entering a critical point of the season. After the All-Star break, the Caps, who are ranked third in the Metropolitan Division and third in the entire League. Kuznetsov, who has been hot lately tallying eight points in his last five games played, needs to stay hot, and even play better. The Capitals already have a deadly offense with the likes of Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, and Nicklas Backstrom, with Justin Williams providing a strong showing on the man advantage. Kuznetsov is right there with them but needs to start making the right decisions, and that includes taking more shots more frequently, if he is to have another year like last.

The team will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday night in a Metropolitan heavyweight match-up, a game that will be a critical two points for two powers in the Metropolitan Division.

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