A day after committing a costly turnover, Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov expressed contrition about the result but offered no apologies for attempting a risky play.
Kuznetsov saw an opportunity for a quick exit, he explained after practice on Friday, and so he tried a behind-the-back pass in the defensive zone. Unfortunately for the Caps, the turnover resulted in the Devils’ only goal in a 2-1 shootout victory.
“I did mistake and I have to pay for that,” he said. “Sometimes you can do 10 mistakes, but then you do one mistake and [it’s in] the back of your net. What you have to do is just focus on next game. I already forget that.”
The 24-year-old Russian added: “Everyone make mistakes, right? The game [is] like that right now. You have to do right things and maybe never do same thing. But that’s not me, I’m always going to play like that. If I was make that play, [we] go on 3-on-2. …If you try to make the play, you have to. I didn’t.”
After winning a draw early in the second period, Kuznetsov secured the puck and looked to move it up quickly. But instead of making the safe play, he attempted a blind pass that ended up going between defensemen Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and right to Devils winger PA Parenteau.
Asked if he should have made a simpler play give the situation, Kuznetsov cracked, “That’s not me,” before adding, “I know that’s my mistake. I saw the kind of guys that pressure us and if I make that play, [we] will go 3-on-2, but like I said I didn’t and I pay for that.”
Coach Barry Trotz said he did not speak to Kuznetsov about the turnover other than a few words on the bench.
“He knows; there’s nothing to be said,” Trotz said Friday. “He’s watched it. He knows. Just make the right play. We have the puck, don’t give them free offense. This game is all about mistakes. If there’s no mistakes there’s no goals. But we just want to make sure that, let’s not do anything blind. Let’s make sure we’re trying to execute the proper ways, and he knows. There’s nothing to be said, just move on.”
Although Trotz did not discuss the turnover with Kuznetsov, the coach did not agree with Kuzy’s rationale for attempting the pass.
“There was no one to connect to,” Trotz said. “That would be my response. At that point, there was no one to connect but [Parenteau].”
Asked why he did not bench or reduce Kuznetsov’s ice time, Trotz said he does not believe it’s a recurring problem for his team's second line pivot, an explanation that underscores his belief that the turnover last week in Philly was an unfortunate bounce off a seam in the boards.
“He’s an important player for us,” Trotz said. “If I sat out everybody who turns the puck over and has a bad shift, I would run out of players. …Sometimes if a player makes continual mistakes, you have a little sit down. But that was a one-time thing. So you just say, ‘Hey, let’s clean that up and go get it back.’ That’s all I said to him.”
Trotz also acknowledged that there’s a fine line coaches must walk with highly-skilled players because they sometimes attempt difficult plays that others would not.
“That does happen,” he said. “With everything we do, we don’t want to limit creativity. But we want to manage and control that creativity to the point where everybody is on the same page. Because if one guy’s got this creative idea of how he’s going to do things and everybody else doesn’t know about this creative idea, a lot of times it doesn’t work. I love the creativity, the stuff the high-skill guys can do. There’s no question that they’re the guys that can really make it happen. But just make the right plays at the right time.”
A blind pass in the D-zone—of a scoreless game, no less—does not qualify as the right play at the right time. The thing to watch will be whether such things continue to happen.
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