At the end of the first round of the NHL Playoffs there was a lot of discussion about Evgeny Kuznetsov and his seemingly lack of play during the playoffs. Some sportscasters expressed extreme worry–others said it highlights his inexperience.
Ok – so lets look at the numbers.
In six games he scored one goal on a power play.
In six games he did not record one assist.
In six games he had 20 shots on goal (SOG).
He has a -2.
All this from the guy who at the end of the regular season ranked third in the NHL for assists and ninth in overall points
In his last six regular season games Kuzy averaged 19 SOG with three assists. In that same timeframe he averaged 17 minutes on the ice compared to an average of 16 minutes on the ice during the first round.
To put it in perspective, Evgeny ranks third on the team for SOG during the playoffs. Alex Ovechkin has 29 and John Carlson has 25. He is one of four players with one goal; two others have two goals and two players have three (Ovi and Backstrom).
We think it is way too early to think that Evgeny has lost the Kuzy-Magic. This was a tough series. He was in the thick of it. Like most of the players, they were shooting the puck and trying their best to score, but in at least two of those games there was this little problem named Michal Neuvirth.
Playing against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kuzy has been pretty average. He has one goal and one assist in four games and averaged two shots per game. About what everyone did in those games. Like everyone, he will need to increase his physical presence and create as much activity in front of the Pens net as possible. Everyone will need to crash the net–repeatedly.
We have faith in Kuzy. He will get his groove. We will see the magic again.
We were hoping this team was nothing like past Capitals’ teams that had commanding leads in the series only to blow them. They can still prove us right by stealing Game 6 in Philly Sunday.
You can’t fault the Caps for their game play. After peppering Michal Neuvirth with 31 shots in Game four, Washington turned it up to 44 in Game 5 but still got stonewalled by the former Capitals netminder. The game winner was a trash goal from rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere that ricocheted off Taylor Chorney to give the Flyers the lead for good.
How to Solve Neuvy
The Caps outshot Philly 44-11 and still lost the game. There is no secret as to why: Michal Neuvirth. The former Caps goalie has stoned them, allowing one goal in 75 shots.The other problem: penalties. The Caps took way too many penalties, including Justin Williams garnering eight minutes in the box. Every time the Caps would try and get in a rhythm, the penalties would halt them.
This is reminiscent of performances by opposing goaltenders the Caps would like to forget. In 2010, the Montreal Canadiens and Jaroslav Halak frustrated the President Trophy winning Caps to a first round exit after being down early in the series. The Caps are trying to make sure history does not repeat itself.
In Game 6 Washington need to continue to put traffic and shots in front of Neuvy and raise the shots up where he can’t grab them. In short, it’s going to be a down and dirty game.
Braden Holtby is playing elite hockey. Even with the last two losses, he’s only allowed two goals and his overall GAA is 1.01 with a .961 save percentage.
The Caps Power Play has been stiffled the last two games, going 0-5 after a 5-9 Game 3.
More of the Same
The Flyers are back to playing their best hockey of the season after faltering out of the gate. After replacing Steve Mason, they’ve found ways to win games with outstanding goaltending by Neuvy. They also have controlled the Caps blue line play, disrupting the flow of play between the two zones. Look for more of the same in Game 6.
Michal Neuvirth has a .50 GAA and .987 save percentage in two games after relieving Mason who had given up 12 goals in three games.
The Flyers only had 11 shots on goal in Game 5, becoming the first team to win a playoff game with that many shots since 1988.
Your starting goaltender once again will be Braden Holtby Vs. Michal Neuvirth in Philly.