Caps need Kuznetsov to start scoring some goals

Josh Luckenbaugh
April 22, 2019 - 10:23 am

The Capitals played by far their best game of the first round Saturday, destroying the Hurricanes 6-0 in a pivotal Game 5.

But once again missing out on the score sheet was Evgeny Kuznetsov, who tallied the most points of any player during last season's Stanley Cup playoffs. Kuznetsov has five points through five games so far this year, all on assists.

And if the Caps want to play the best hockey they can with T.J. Oshie out with a broken clavicle, Kuznetsov's gonna have to start scoring goals, Barry Svrluga told The Sports Junkies Monday.

"Even if they put Carolina away and advance to play the Islanders and Barry Trotz, which would be a heck of a story, they can't reach their maximum potential unless Evgeny Kuznetsov is playing his best hockey," said Svrluga. 

"Ovi was the Conn Smythe winner, and deservedly so, but no one played better than Kuznetsov did in the playoffs last year. And we've been waiting for that Kuzy to surface all year long."

"If you go back to Oshie being out, the number of places that they have to turn for scoring and for offensive production has dwindled a little bit. It has to come. At some point, Kuznetsov has to score, and you're right tonight's as good a time as any."

With Oshie out and Kuznetsov in a scoring slump, Nicklas Backstrom has stepped up in the series against Carolina, leading the Caps with five goals.  

"When Oshie goes out, we're immediately like, 'Well, who's gonna pick up the slack? Is (Andre) Burakovsky gonna finally step forward? Is Jakub Vrana gonna pick it up?' The most obvious answer ... we've found for a decade or a dozen years is Backstrom," Svrluga told the Junkies.

"We appreciate him in this town more than he's appreciated league-wide, and that's been the storyline on him for ... five, six, seven, eight years now. But at some level, I think we should move beyond whether he gets his due and just appreciate that the Washington Capitals have this guy, that he is going to be a Hall-of-Famer one day."

"And at a time when they needed to come through with their best performance of the postseason — a very short postseason thus far — Backstrom scored the first two goals, led the way, made up for Oshie, but also just did all the stuff that he's been doing around here for 12 years."

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