In his first media availability of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov remains true to form.
He has multiple jokes — and laughs to go with them — at the ready as he discusses the upcoming first-round series against the No. 1 Florida Panthers.
“I just wanna get out of here cause I have allergies,” Kuznetsov said when asked about starting the postseason on the road. “I’m excited to start on the road so I can start to breathe.”
Ultimately, though, No. 92 knows how to balance work and play. And when the time comes, he offers plenty of insight into what the Capitals, who are playing the role of the underdog for the first time in a long time, have to do to overcome the Presidents’ Trophy winners.
“We have to play defensively better, we have to play for each other and our chances are going to come,” Kuznetsov explained. “We just have to execute, we have to take game by game. And that’s a good team we play against. We have a good team, too. So it should be good matchup.”
When it comes to the keys to that matchup between two “good” teams, Kuznetsov is poised to play a major role. The 29-year-old remains on the ultimate revenge tour and is coming off an outstanding regular season that saw him put up 78 points in 79 games following a lackluster 2020-21 that resulted in trade rumors and backlash from numerous critics.
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Against Florida, which has a high-octane offense that features the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Anthony Duclair, Claude Giroux and more, the top-line center will have to continue to bring his A-game and the same ability that helped him pull off one of the best years of his career to date.
“As a player, you always want to be better, you always want to play good and we also put pressure on ourselves in a good way,” Kuznetsov noted. “It’s not a negative way. It’s always a positive. We want to play better, and that’s a great opportunity and a great challenge against a pretty good team.”
Going into the first round, Kuznetsov said that he’s no stranger to the pressure, and neither is the team. However, they aren’t letting it weigh over them with Florida probably feeling the same way given its rough playoff history.
“To be honest with you, I think the expectations and the pressure is pretty similar for both teams. Even though we’re not the Presidents’ winner and we’re the wild card or whatever, I feel the pressure is pretty big on us, too,” Kuznetsov said. “So, like I said before, it should be a pretty good matchup.
“I don’t know why people put pressure on us. We believe we have a good team. We believe that we have everything to be successful. And when you have everything and you did something the past not that long ago, there’s always expectations and pressure.”
And ultimately, Kuznetsov’s plan is to continue playing his game and bringing his vintage “Kuzy” ability to the table.
“Right from his training in the summer and training camp, he started the season really strong. And he carried that play through the entire season,” head coach Peter Laviolette said of Kuznetsov. “Kuzy in the way he plays the game and he attacks the game with his speed and his skill is exciting. I’m sure he’s anxious to get into a playoff game.”