NHL | Tampa Bay Lightning

A Stanley Cup Would Solidify Nikita Kucherov as the Greatest Bolt

Following a 2-1 double overtime game five loss, the Lightning look to book a date with the Dallas Stars in the finals for Lord Stanley’s Cup on Thursday. Last night’s game caught a number of unlucky breaks, including a questionable penalty that led to an Islanders 1-0 lead, as well The Islanders blocking the puck with their hands. A wide shot by Blake Coleman, a great wrist shot from Victor Hedman that was deflected off of the stick of Tyler Johnson, a goal from Carter Verhaeghe that was called back due to an off side from Cedric Paquette. Kevin Shatternkirk fanned the Lightning’s final scoring opportunity. They had a double minor heading into overtime after an injury to Mikhail Sergachev. The team is already battered and bruised, missing key pieces such as Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos. But at the end, you just had to tip your cap to a tremendous goal from Jordan Eberle and a great game from Anders Lee.

Game Six is must win for the Lightning, who in 2019 saw the best record in the history of hockey and got swept out by The Columbus Blue Jackets, a team they beat in five games this postseason, including a six OT game capped off by Brayden Point’s gamewinner. They then dealt with the Boston Bruins, NHLs top record holder. This team is a Cup favorite every year, but hasn’t made the trip since 2015 when they shocked the world, and the New York Rangers, in seven before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks when they were unable to stop Duncan Keith. But for 27 year old superstar Nikita Kucherov, he’s a chip away from already solidifying his legacy as the all-time greatest Bolt.

In June of 2019, I covered just what he means to the Bolts. He then won the Hart Trophy as the NHLs Most Valuable Player. Where does he stack up among Lightning greats? At only 27 years old, he has the most points in playoff history for the Bolts at his own number, 86. The next closest? 68, Martin St. Louis. His 35 goals and 51 assists in the playoffs are also team records. So, how’s his regular seasons? In a word, dominant. He’s a multi-dimensional sniper, who scores 40 goals a year yet has more assists somehow because nobody in hockey can move the puck around the ice better. It allows the Lightning to always be a threat and players such as Alex Killorn and Brayden Point to find the net at every opportunity.

Before Kucherov, who were the stars? Martin St. Louis, who entered the Hockey Hall of Fame among immediate eligibility. Vincent Lecavalier, a fan favorite from the 2004 Stanley Cup team. Steven Stamkos, the current captain, who replaced MartySL at the helm.

St. Louis is by far the top in the organization’s history. It’s no contest. However, over their first seven seasons, it’s as followed:

St. Louis: 539 games played, 204 goals, 281 assists, 485 points.
Kucherov: 515 GP, 221 G, 326 A, 547 P.

In 24 less games, Kucherov has scored 62 more points, with 17 mores goals and 45 more goals. He has more than half of St. Louis’ total game winning goals over his career. Kuch’s Offensive Zone Start Percentage is 59.6, to Marty’s 55.9.

Over his first seven seasons, Stamkos (whose numbers have seen a dip), had more goals (276) but fifty less overall points. In 2018, Kucherov signed an 8 year extension with Tampa Bay, the biggest contract in team history, which will keep him in a Bolts uniform until his age 33 season at minimum. It was his breakout 2015 postseason that led them to a Finals appearance, albeit in a loss. He’s won a Ted Lindsay trophy, meaning the NHL players voted him the best in hockey. He’s won an Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer. He’s been an All-Star in three consecutive seasons. He also already holds a number of records. The following records are held by Nikita Kucherov:

  • Tied with Jaromir Jagr for most assists by a winger in a singles season.
  • Most points in a season by a Lightning player.
  • Most assists in a season by a Lightning player.
  • Most games with a goal to start a season by a Lightning player.
  • Most points in a season by a Russian born player.

He’s only played seven seasons and is already number four on the all-time goal and scorer list for the Bolts, behind people with far more time under their belt. He’s the most dominant Bolt player ever, but he doesn’t have that elusive championship. In a time where the Bolts haven’t had Steven Stamkos step on the ice in the playoffs, it’s his time to shine brighter than ever and show that the Bolts play their best under his guidance. With Brayden Point now out, and potentially Mikhail Sergachev, the team is beaten down but only need five more wins for Kucherov to complete his legacy. Can he even make the Finals for a second time? Find out this Thursday at 8 on NBC.

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Jameus Mooney