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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.”

LISTEN TO THE LATEST EPISODE OF THE CAPITALS FACEOFF PODCAST

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

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