The Tampa Bay Lightning are off to quite a start in the Eastern Conference, and Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are at the middle of it.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that on Monday, the linemates received recognition from the NHL for their efforts, with Kucherov being named the NHL’s second star for last week and Stamkos the first star.
(By the way, remember that column about tempering expectations on Stamkos early in the season? Yeah, about that . . .)
Last week, Kucherov had to endure a brutal one-game scoring slump but did manage to capture five goals and eight points in four games, and is battling with Alex Ovechkin for the league lead in goals with 10. Stamkos, who has most recently had to battle back from knee surgery last season, had 11 points in four games, capped off with a four-point performance and a career milestone against the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.
“You can’t overlook the fact that 600 points — that’s a lot of points in this league,” said coach Jon Cooper on Monday. “He’s just shy of 600 games right? So, to play that many games and be above a point-per-game player … it’s one thing to do that in 10 games but to do it in 600 games is pretty impressive.”
The Bolts and Toronto Maple Leafs continue to duke it out for not only the highest scoring team in the league right now, but also top spot in the Atlantic Division. The Lightning currently have a three-point lead.
While Kucherov and Stamkos have been a big part of Tampa Bay’s hot start, this club has received healthy contributions throughout their lineup. Their linemate Vladislav Namestnikov has gone about his business with 10 points, which has him tied in that category with Brayden Point.
Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who is still 19 years old and eligible to return to junior, is on the verge of playing his 10th game, but he’s currently Tampa Bay’s most productive blue liner (eight points in nine games), which makes it virtually a guarantee that he’ll remain in the NHL beyond that mark, using up the first year of his entry-level contract.
“There’s a really good chance you’ll see him tomorrow,” said Cooper of Sergachev.
Oh, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has been impressive early on with a .933 save percentage through his eight starts.
Kucherov and Stamkos are obviously worthy of this recognition, and it’s probably not the last time they’ll receive such kudos from the league as this season continues. But the danger this team poses to the opposition goes beyond its stars.
Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.