Evgeny Kuznetsov (Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)
Washington's Evgeny Kuznetsov was the Game 7 hero against the New York Islanders, but it shouldn't be surprising considering how the Capitals center played over the final three games of the first-round series. Watch as Kuznetsov beats Frans Nielsen off the wall and waits out Jaroslav Halak to score the series-winning goal.
There's a reason we picked Washington center Evgeny Kuznetsov as one of the five potential Game 7 heroes for Monday's tilt between the Capitals and Islanders, and that's because whenever the puck had been on his stick in the first-round series, the 22-year-old looked incredibly dangerous.
With the teams tied 1-1 late in the third period and the clock approaching seven minutes remaining in regulation, it was Kuznetsov that struck. Picking the puck up on the right wing boards, he found open ice by spinning to his forehand and then walked to the front of the net where he waited out Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak before burying what stood as the game- and series-winning marker:
For the most part, Kuznetsov will be lauded for his patience once he gets to the net and delays long enough to pull Halak out of position, but the move he puts on Islanders center Frans Nielsen in the corner is what made the entire play happen. Kuznetsov doesn't panic, waits for Nielsen to get close enough that he can be beat in a foot race once Kuznetsov spins and then the game-winner is there for the taking.
In the regular season, Kuznetsov scored 11 goals and 37 points in 80 games. Through seven playoff games, he's nearly one-third of the way to his regular season goal total with three tallies. Over the final three outings of the first-round series against the Islanders, Kuznetsov put 15 shots on goal and was one of the most effective players for either team.
When Washington takes on the New York Rangers in the second round, you can be sure they're going to make sure to focus on Kuznetsov. With the way he's playing, it makes the Capitals -- who already boast Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom -- all the more dangerous.