Evgeny Kuznetsov is having a historic Stanley Cup playoffs, with 31 points in 23 games. If the Washington Capitals win one more game against the Vegas Golden Knights, they’ll clinch the series, and Kuznetsov could be in line to win the Conn Smythe.
But while many are singing the Russian forward’s praises, don’t count Don Cherry among that group.
“I don’t like the bird man,” Cherry said, referring to Kuznetsov, during an interview with ABC 7 Sports Washington.
Cherry was referencing the goal celebration Kuznetsov has made famous. During the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, Kuznetsov debuted the dance, flapping his arms after scoring against Team North America.
Kuznetsov scored 27 goals during the regular season but rarely followed up with that celebration. The bird has been the word during the playoffs, however; Kuznetsov has been one of the top point producers and has gone back to his signature move, including after scoring in Game 3 vs. Vegas.
#ALLCAPS go up 2-0 after the Evgeny Kuznetsov goal!pic.twitter.com/Luocgrz9zx
— Def Pen Sports (@DefPenSports) June 3, 2018
“Everything in Canada, we act like no other sport … and (Kuznetsov) — Is that his name? — whatever,” Cherry said, pronouncing his name “Kuzeesov.” “In Canada, we try to act — most of the players try to act after you … you celebrate, (Ovechkin) celebrates. The only guy I don’t like is the bird man, whatever his name is.”
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The always colorful Don Cherry @CoachsCornerDC has an issue with one of the @Capitals stars .. @ABC7Erin goes 1-on-1 with the @hockeynight legend pic.twitter.com/iZwbXUT48g
— ABC 7 Sports (@ABC7Sports) June 7, 2018
While Cherry earlier in the interview said he was “in Ovi’s corner,” his criticism of Kuznetsov echoed similar sentiments Cherry shared about his countryman and teammate, Ovechkin, for celebrating after reaching the 50-goal mark during the 2009 season. After scoring, Ovechkin pretended his stick was on fire, and Cherry called the celebration “nonsense.”
“You should be a role model,” Cherry said at the time. “You don’t need to do it like this. You’re above stuff like that. You’re the best hockey player playing today. Have a little class and do it right.”
Kuznetsov’s teammates, unlike Cherry, have been supportive of his goal celebration.
“I love to see the wings come out,” Capitals’ forward Tom Wilson told Sportsnet when Washington played Toronto in the 2017 playoffs. “That means he’s checked in and playing with fire. If he scores a big goal like that, I’m not going to tell him he can’t.”