What is the one knock on Evgeny Kuznetsov’s game?
You know what it is. Everybody say it with me now: He needs to shoot the puck more.
It’s no secret what fans want the talented Russian forward to do.
They yell it from the stands of Capital One Arena or when they watching the TV braodcast at home.
Heck, Barry Trotz has talked about it to the media before.
That’s what made Saturday’s win over the Anaheim Ducks so refreshing.
With Washington down 2-1 in the third, Jakub Vrana found Kuznetsov in the slot and he buried it into the net behind Ducks goalie John Gibson. He even had Tom Wilson on the back door to pass to, but he chose instead to shoot the puck. That shows that he…wait, what’s that?
“I think Kuzy was, on his goal, I think he was trying to make one more pass,” Trotz said after the game.
No way. This is just the head coach being tongue-in-cheek, right?
Watch the replay and see for yourself:
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Oh. Yeah, that was definitely a pass.
Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano reaches in to try and get his stick in the way of the shot and the puck deflects off his stick and into the net. If you watch, however, the puck was never intended to go on net. Instead, Kuznetsov was trying to get it to Wilson on the back door.
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At this moment, Kuznetsov still has the puck on his stick, but the blade of the stick is not facing the goal. It is facing Wilson.
The fact that he has not yet released the puck at this point means he’s not aiming for the goal.
While aiming at Wilson, Cogliano’s stick gets in the way and deflects it on net.
Could Kuznetsov have gotten that puck to Wilson? Defenseman Kevin Bieksa is in the passing lane, but if anyone could thread that needle, it’s Kuznetsov. The point , however, is that passing here is the wrong decision.
Kuznetsov has the opportunity to shoot from a high-danger area. Wilson would have had a layup if Kuznetsov had gotten him the puck, but trying to pass through Bieksa is a much more difficult play. If you already have the puck in a high-danger area with an opportunity to shoot, you need to take that opportunity.
The bad news is Kuznetsov was trying to pass up a scoring chance for a more difficult play to set up a teammate. The good news is that it didn't matter. Cogliano’s effort to try to defend the shot ended up putting the puck into the back of the net thus saving Kuznetsov from making the wrong decision.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but there’s still a lesson here for Kuznetsov on why shooting the puck is the better option.