At some point, the hockey world will utter a plea to Nikita Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning in general: “OK, enough already, we get it.”
The Dallas Stars probably felt like an overmatched kid playing a video game against a merciless adult on Thursday, as the Lightning bombarded them by a thunderous final score of 6-0. In doing so, the trend of Kucherov and the Bolts hitting similar milestones continued.
In early February, Kucherov crossed the 80-point mark at the same time the Lightning became the first tam in the NHL to reach 80+ standings points. Remarkably, this month isn’t even over yet, and the team and player are now both in the 90-range.
Kucherov scored one goal and three assists on Thursday, pushing him to a patently absurd 92 points in 58 games. He’s eight points from tying last season’s career-high of 100, which he managed in 80 games, and Kucherov’s already comfortably ahead of his previous second-best total of 85 points.
The Russian winger already garnered midseason Hart Trophy nods, but he might just score his way to the point of being impossible to deny when the real award is determined.
Gretz goes into great detail regarding Kucherov’s incredible work, but adding a four-point night readjusts some of the history some more. Via the NHL, Kucherov is the first Lightning player to reach 90+ points before his 60th game played in a season, and he’s the first Bolt to generate three consecutive games of three points or more.
The funny thing is, when he was really heating up early in 2019, I wondered if he might slow down ever so slightly. That happened to Kucherov in late 2017-18, likely because he was injured. Such issues really might be the only thing that slows Kucherov down – relatively speaking – as we approach the end of this score-happy season.
At this point, the strongest argument against Kucherov is increasingly going to be “Yeah, but look at the team he is on.”
And, yes, the Lightning really are something. Maybe winning by such a demonstrative score as 6-0 will drum up a little more excitement for how special they’ve truly been, as some hockey fans almost seem bored by their excellence.
By improving to a splendid 43-11-4 record, the Lightning are the first team to hit 90 points this season, and it will be a while before anyone else reaches 80. As of this writing, the second-best point total is 75 points. Yeah.
The trade deadline is rapidly approaching, and perhaps the Lightning might add to their embarrassment of riches. Although that talk is a lot of fun, and there’s the off chance that a move really could swing the balance of power in the NHL, the dominance of Tampa Bay and its star winger provides a helpful reminder that there’s quite the gap between the Lightning and everyone else.
Good luck bridging that gap.