Published On: Sun, Jun 3rd, 2018

Coaches' Playbook: Kuznetsov perfectly executes 2-on-1 goal

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Much of the time between Games 2 and 3 of the Stanley Cup Final was filled with speculation about whether Evgeny Kuznetsov would be healthy enough to participate come Saturday night.

The Washington Capitals‘ top-line pivot bore the brunt of a thunderous hit from Vegas Golden Knights blue-liner Brayden McNabb in Game 2, but looked no worse for wear in Game 3, playing a pivotal role throughout a dominant 3-1 win.

Kuznetsov was buzzing from the start of his first shift. He recorded an assist and scored the game-winning goal, and the Caps generated 51.52 percent of the shot attempts and 59 percent of the scoring chances when he was on the ice at even strength, per Natural Stat Trick.

He’s been a force throughout the postseason, leading all players with 27 points in 22 games, but perhaps his signature moment of the playoffs came in the second period, when his perfectly executed rush in transition led to a key insurance goal for the Capitals.

We’ll break down what happened below. The entire play can be seen here.

The play started with the Capitals in good defensive-zone position, but they had a mishmash of players on the ice, as Kuznetsov (middle) is on with T.J. Oshie and Jay Beagle.

As part of Shea Theodore‘s rather rotten night, his stick broke on his shot, leading to an easy block for Oshie.

With two Golden Knights in pursuit, Oshie quickly chipped the puck to Beagle, who was in support. With Kuznetsov ahead of him, Beagle wisely deferred possession to the more skilled playmaker as the Capitals headed up ice with numbers in their favor.

After wading through the neutral zone unscathed, Kuznetsov scanned his options upon crossing the blue line. He’s got Beagle charging hard to the net and Orlov under back pressure from David Perron, while Colin Miller monitors the middle of the ice.

With Marc-Andre Fleury now in the frame, Kuznetsov has to make his choice. Orlov is essentially a non-factor unless a rebound pops into the slot, so Kuznetsov can either shoot or attempt to feather a pass through Miller onto Beagle’s tape. Note how far away he holds the puck from his body to keep Fleury guessing.

It’s a good thing he opted to shoot.

With a quick change of his blade angle, Kuznetsov rifled a picture-perfect shot past Fleury that clanked off the post and in. Though Fleury cut down the angle well, Kuznetsov placed the puck under his blocker and over his pad – virtually the only spot where the acrobatic netminder couldn’t reach it.

Kuznetsov’s impact on the Capitals’ lineup was crystal clear in Game 3, and it’s plays like his game-winner that make his case for a potential Conn Smythe Trophy.

(Screenshots courtesy:

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