Evgeny Kuznetsov had a phenomenal week as the Caps swept through Canada and the NHL took notice. The league named Kuznetsov as its first star of the week on Monday after recording nine points in three games.
Kuznetsov looked poised for a breakout year after a strong performance in the playoffs last season. Head coach Barry Trotz believes that has helped fuel him.
"No one gets more confidence in their game than when they have success in the post-season," Trotz said. "The level of play is so high and everything is on the line. When you have success in the post-season it usually translates to having success the next year and he has."
Kuznetsov had three assists on Tuesday against Calgary and an assist on Alex Ovechkin's game-winning goal on Thursday in Vancouver. He then went on to score his first-career hat trick in a five-point night on Friday against the Edmonton OIlers.
"Sometimes it happens in a game so quickly – boom, boom, boom," Kuznetsov said.
Per the NHL's release, Kuznetsov is the first Caps player to record a five-point game since Dec. 10, 2013 when Nicklas Backstrom scored a goal and four assists against Tampa Bay. Kuznetsov's 11 points are just one shy of the league lead.
With Backstrom's health in question at the start of the season, Kuznetsov was slotted as the top line's temporary center. The top line is rolling, however, and Kuznetsov is thriving along side the Great 8.
"It’s fun. We always talk before the game what we want to do," Kuznetsov said.
"I think he’s comfortable with what we’re doing as a team," Trotz said. "He’s comfortable with his linemates and he’s comfortable with the transition to the North American game. He knows how to play his style of game in a North American arena."