Evgeny Kuznetsov

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Inside Alex Ovechkin's weekend party with the Stanley Cup in Russia

Inside Alex Ovechkin's weekend party with the Stanley Cup in Russia

Alex Ovechkin took the Stanley Cup to Russia over the weekend and showed off the greatest trophy in sports at the World Cup and around his childhood hockey rink.

As each team member gets a day with the Stanley Cup at some point this summer, the team captain actually got a couple. So Saturday, he took the Cup to World Cup fans in Moscow and had a special moment with his father, who held the trophy for the first time.  

Ovi said he wanted to share the Cup with the people, and that’s exactly what he did.

And yes, he’s still sleeping with it.

Then, of course, he continued the party with some of his teammates, including Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov, in his final hours with the Stanley Cup. Their continued adventures and fun with the trophy involved eating caviar and drinking champagne out of it. Plus, more crazy dance partying and an awesome cake tribute to the first time Stanley Cup champion.

Here’s a look inside Ovi’s final party with the Cup.

More champagne and more keg stands…

And more dancing…

And then Ovi said goodbye to the Stanley Cup, passing it off to Michal Kempny.

(WARNING: THERE IS SOME NSFW LANGUAGE IN THIS VIDEO.)

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Was Alex Ovechkin the right choice for the Conn Smythe?

Was Alex Ovechkin the right choice for the Conn Smythe?

Just before he hoisted the Stanley Cup, Alex Ovechkin was awarded the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP.

Ovechkin was certainly a worthy candidate, but was he truly the team's most valuable player in the postseason?

Evgeny Kuznetsov's 32 points are five more than Ovechkin's 27. That marks the most points in a single postseason since 2009 and the second most since 1997.

There is also Braden Holtby to consider. Holtby did not start Game 1 or Game 2 of the playoffs and the Caps lost both. He took over as the starter in Game 3 and the Caps never looked back.

Plus, who could forget The Save?

So was the Conn Smythe awarded to the right player? Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan debate who the real MVP of the Capitals' Cup run truly was. 

El-Bashir: Evgeny Kuznetsov led the postseason with a whopping 32 points in 24 games. He also scored the OT goal that finally pushed the Caps past the Penguins.

Braden Holtby had the lowest goals-against average (2.16) and second-best save percentage (.922) of any goalie who made at least a dozen appearances in the postseason. He also made The Save, quite possibly the biggest stop in franchise history and certainly one of the most memorable saves ever in the Final.

A strong argument could have been made for either player to claim the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

I gave my vote to Alex Ovechkin. Why? On a game-by-game basis, he had the biggest impact.

The hardest thing to do in hockey is score goals. And Ovi did it 15 times, tying him with Sidney Crosby (2009) for the most in a postseason since 1997.

The last-minute winner in Game 3 vs. Pittsburgh? Ovi batted it out of midair.

That Kuzy goal that eliminated the Pens? Ovi had the primary assist.      

The Game 6 win over Tampa Bay? Ovi didn’t record a point, but he set the tone with his physical play. His teammates took note.

How about Game 7 vs. the Bolts? Ovi scored 62 seconds in, and the Caps never looked back.

In the Final, he racked up three goals and two assists in five games. He also led his team in emotional GIFs.

Then there were the blocked shots. Ovi is known for putting pucks into the net, not putting body parts in front of them. In these playoffs, he happily threw himself in front of shots. Why? His commitment level was never higher.

For two months, with no days off, the captain was all-in. And the Caps followed his lead.

Regan: Holtby had the signature moment of the entire series with "The Save" in Game 2 and the playoffs certainly turned around for the Caps when he took the starting job back from Philipp Grubauer. Washington lost both games in which Holtby did not start, but went 16-6 after with him between the pipes.

Despite all of that, Holtby would have been a distant third on my ballot.

A hot goalie can steal a series in the playoffs, but the Caps never needed Holtby to do that. Even against the Tampa Bay Lightning, when the team faced elimination and he recorded back-to-back shutouts, the Caps so thoroughly outplayed the Lightning in both of those games you couldn't really say Holtby stole either one. He absolutely was a major factor in those wins as he was throughout the playoffs, but was not the MVP of the playoffs.

Kuznetsov's production through the postseason was absolutely incredible, but that does necessarily make him the team's best player. No game better illustrated that face than Game 6 against the Lightning. Ovechkin did not record a single point in that game, but he was undeniably the best player on the ice to everyone who was watching. The team fed off his emotion in what was one of the most impressive performances of the entire postseason.

And that's why Ovechkin deserved to win. His impact throughout the playoffs was about so much more than just points. Obviously Ovechkin's 15 goals and 12 assists were important, but the emotional lift he gave to the team was even more so. He played like he was not going to be denied the Stanley Cup this year and the team believed it too.

In my mind, there was a clear moment in which Ovechkin sealed the Conn Smythe. In the Cup-clinching Game 5 against Vegas, Nate Schmidt tied the game at 1 in the second period. Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty off the ensuing faceoff and scored on the resulting power play to put the Caps back ahead just 34 seconds after Schmidt's goal.

Kuznetsov's numbers put him in a separate class from everyone else, but the effort and emotion Ovechkin played with this postseason put him in a separate class as well. If you had to pick who had the greater impact, it's no contest. This was Ovechkin's playoffs, Ovechkin's Stanley Cup, Ovechkin's time.

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With four assists in Game 4, Evgeny Kuznetsov has gone next level for the Caps

With four assists in Game 4, Evgeny Kuznetsov has gone next level for the Caps

Evgeny Kuznetsov’s remarkable postseason continued in Game 4 with a four-assist performance that’s helped propel the Caps within one win of the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.

But Kuzy’s scintillating performance Monday night wasn’t just timely, it was also historic.

Consider:

  • Kuznetsov’s four helpers matched a single-game Stanley Cup Final record, achieved by 11 other players. The last time it happened? Colorado’s Joe Sakic did it in Game 2 of the 1996 Final.
  • The four assists also equaled a Caps’ single-game playoff record, previously set by Scott Stevens in Game 6 of the 1988 Patrick Division Final and Andrei Nikolishin in Game 3 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Final.

Indeed, it was a great game for Kuznetsov. But it shouldn’t have come as a surprise given how good he’s been throughout these playoffs. When it’s all said and done, No. 92’s performance this spring will go down as one of the most dominant in recent decades and among the best ever for a Russian born player.

Check out these numbers:

  • With 12 goals and 19 assists for a postseason-leading 31 points (in 23 games), Kuznetsov is just the fifth player since 1997 to register 30 or more points in a single playoffs. Evgeni Malkin is atop that list with 36 points in 2009, while Kuznetsov and Sidney Crosby (2009) are tied for second with 31.
  • Kuznetsov is five points clear of teammate and fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin (14 goals and 12 assists for 26 points) and can become just the third Russian to lead the postseason in points in the league’s modern era. Sergei Fedorov did it in 1995 and Malkin accomplished the feat in 2009 and 2017.

Head Coach Barry Trotz said on Tuesday that Kuznetsov has embraced the big stage and taken his game to the next level in recent weeks.

“The glare of Ovi probably has dimmed Kuzy’s light, if you will,” he said. “But in the playoffs, you don’t know how guys are going to perform, good or bad. Kuzy has elevated his game. It’s not surprising when you see his ability, his I.Q., his skill level.”

“And now,” Trotz continued, “he’s brought that pride of playing in really tough games [to] the most meaningful games you can play in. He’s been outstanding.”

Kuznetsov has been a superstar in the making for some time now. After these playoffs, though, there’s no doubt that he’ll be a household name.

“You can make a name for yourself in the playoffs,” Trotz said. “And he’s definitely doing that.”