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.”
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.”
MORE CAPITALS: DON'T EXPECT A BACKSTROM-OVI REUNION YET
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