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You aren't alone—Trotz thought Kuznetsov was going to shoot, too

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You aren't alone—Trotz thought Kuznetsov was going to shoot, too

No, you weren’t the only person wondering what Evgeny Kuznetsov was thinking when he passed up a prime scoring chance in overtime against Arizona.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz was befuddled by No. 92’s decision, too.

Asked if he’d like to see Kuznetsov shoot the puck more, Trotz joked on Friday morning: “Yeah, absolutely. Especially when he’s in the blue paint.”

“I was ready to jump up because I thought he was sticking it in the net,” Trotz continued. “Then all of a sudden it was in the corner.”

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As you can see, Kuznetsov wasn’t actually in the blue paint. But he was close enough that he shouldn’t have attempted to finish a give-and-go with T.J. Oshie, either.

As it turned out, Kuzy’s odd decision didn’t end up costing the Caps because John Carlson scored the game-winner a short while later. The decision did, however, lead to a broader discussion of whether Kuznetsov needs to get a little more selfish and use his dangerous shot more often.

“I think what it does when he does shoot [is] it will open up his wingers for him, too, because everyone is shading to the wingers right now because they think he’s just looking for his wingers,” Trotz said. “He’s just got to shoot a little bit more. Be more of a threat.”

“He’s a threat gaining the zone,” he added. “He’s a threat when he gets to the top of the circles and then he’s looking to dish a little bit. And he can shoot the puck. I use his stick, so I know. He’s learned from me. No, he can really shoot it and he’s accurate.” 

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As the Caps prepare to host the rival Penguins, Kuznetsov is tied with Alex Ovechkin for the team lead in points with 18 (3 goals, 15 assists). In shots, though, he’s third with 37, behind Ovechkin (league-best 78) and Carlson (55). Kuznetsov’s shot total is tied for 116th in the NHL.

In addition to giving Kuznetsov a ribbing about passing from the slot, Trotz also gave his star center, who has never scored more than 20 times in a season, a new goal to shoot for this year.

“You need him to be a 25 goal scorer every year, not a 10-goal scorer,” Trotz said. “You need 25 out of him and he’s very capable of that. So yeah, absolutely, we want him to shoot more.”

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Why now? Barry Trotz explains his decision to reunite Ovechkin and Backstrom

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Why now? Barry Trotz explains his decision to reunite Ovechkin and Backstrom

Barry Trotz did seemingly everything he could to avoid it, but secretly he was thinking just as much about reuniting Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom as you were. He surprised everyone on Wednesday by putting the two back together on the top line and the move had instant results as the Capitals battled to a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.

A 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday highlighted the team’s top-six struggles at even strength. Ovechkin, Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov all were struggling to produce at the level the Caps need in order to be successful.

You can talk about wanting to avoid making the team too top-heavy all we want, but in the end, being top-heavy is better than not producing at all.

RELATED: LISTEN TO THE LATEST EPISODE OF THE CAPS EXTRA PODCAST!

So with the team’s top players still struggling, the talk after the Calgary game all focused on whether Trotz would consider putting Ovechkin and Backstrom back together, a combination that has been incredibly successful for the Caps in the past.

Trotz, however, seemed hesitant to make the move.

The lines remained unchanged at practice. When asked why not reunite Ovechkin and Backstrom, he told reporters after Tuesday’s practice that he didn’t feel like it. He told the Sports Junkies on Wednesday that Ovechkin can be difficult to play with and that it was hard to find matches for him.

And yet, when the players took to the ice for warmups on Wednesday prior to the game against Ottawa, Ovechkin and Backstrom were together again.

“I've been thinking about it for a while,” Trotz said.

It is obvious why Trotz would put Ovechkin and Backstrom back together. Their chemistry was evident in Wednesday’s game. But Trotz has avoided making that move up to now through the first quarter of the season.

“[Ovechkin] demands such presence,” Trotz said. “He's the greatest goal-scorer in his generation, I've said that many times, and you need a very intelligent player and you have to get used to playing with him because when he gets into those areas … he can score in those tight windows which any other players can't. It's as much getting used to playing with someone else and all that.”

MORE CAPITALS: 4 REASONS WHY THE CAPS BEAT THE SENATORS

“By playing [Evgeny Kuznetsov] for such a long time with [Ovechkin] too,” Trotz added, “It opens up some windows so that we have those options.”

Basically, Trotz’s reasoning is that players need to adjust and learn how to play with Ovechkin. He always knew he could go back to Ovechkin-Backstrom, but it is much harder to start with Ovechkin-Backstrom and split them up out of necessity.

As Trotz would later put it on Wednesday, “If you love something you set it free, if it comes back it was meant to be.”

Clearly, it was meant to be as there’s just no denying that when Ovechkin and Backstrom are together, their play ascends to another level.

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4 reasons why the Caps beat the Senators

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4 reasons why the Caps beat the Senators

The Capitals head into Thanksgiving on a high note after a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

Here's why they won.

Line changes

Barry Trotz surprised everyone by changing up the lines and reuniting Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom despite coyly telling the media that he would use the same "group" just two hours before the game. The move worked, however, as an energized Caps team took the ice. The moves were not just felt on the top line, there was a boost all throughout the lineup to start the game and the energy the team played with was evident.

The Caps’ best offensive players looked like their best offensive players

Much has been written in recent days about the Caps’ top-six and its offensive struggles, but they seemed just fine against Ottawa. Ovechkin (1 goal), Backstrom (1 assist), T.J. Oshie (2 assists), Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 goal, 2 assists) and Jakub Vrana (2 goals) all had big nights.

Ovechkin's late first period goal

Multi-goal leads have been hard to come by for the Caps of late. Despite a strong first period, Washington held only a 1-0 lead as the first frame drew to a close. Instead of having a chance to regroup in the locker room, Ottawa found itself suddenly down by two as Ovechkin scored with just five seconds left. That goal set the tone for the start of the second period where Washington was able to tack on another two goals to take the 4-0 lead. Does that momentum carry over to the second without Ovechkin's late tally? I'm not so sure.

Killing a 5-on-3 power play in the second period

Despite the 4-0 deficit, the Senators hung around and scored in the second period to make it 4-1. Then Ovechkin was called for a high-stick and Backstrom got into a bit of a tussle with Ben Harpur after getting a high-stick from him. The ref sent Ovechkin, Backstrom and Harpur to the box. Just 44 seconds later, Tom Wilson joined them after getting called for a slash giving the Senators 1:16 of a two-man advantage power play. One goal would have pulled them within two with over a period left to play. This game was not over. This was a critical moment for Washington and the penalty kill delivered by killing off both penalties. After that, the game really was no longer in doubt.