No Conn Smythe nods, but Kucherov – Point drove Lightning repeat runs

No Conn Smythe nods, but Kucherov - Point drove Lightning repeat runs
Getty Images

If you merely scroll down a list of Stanley Cup champions and also note the Conn Smythe winners, you’ll get a taste of NHL playoff history — but also miss so much more. Such a thought feels especially pertinent when you consider just how crucial Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point were to both of the Lightning’s repeat Stanley Cup wins, even though neither won a Conn Smythe.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

Andrei Vasilevskiy proved absolutely crucial to the Lightning’s run as repeat Stanley Cup champions. Shutting out the Canadiens to clinch the repeat added a bold exclamation point to Vasilevskiy’s Conn Smythe victory. And Victor Hedman was an incredible workhorse during that 2020 Stanley Cup run.

Yet, in each run, both Kucherov and Point deserved prominent placement in Conn Smythe debates.

Here’s hoping, then, that people remember that the Lightning’s dynamic duo was right there with those other choices. Maybe that sounds obvious, but with so much attention lavished over the additions of Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman during that first run, and Pat Maroon‘s remarkable Stanley Cup repeat, maybe Kucherov and Point require an extra moment in the limelight.

Point – Kucherov dominated during both runs of Lightning Stanley Cup repeat

Granted, you don’t need to dig too deep to realize that Kucherov and Point belonged in both Conn Smythe conversations. Just consider some of the simplest NHL playoff stats.

  • With 32 points in 23 games, Nikita Kucherov comfortably topped all scorers during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Point was second with 23 points, while Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman tied for third with 18.
  • Meanwhile, Point topped all playoff performers with 14 goals. In fact, he was the only player in double digits, as Stamkos and Kucherov were part of a tie for second at eight goals with Alex Killorn, Brad Marchand, and Nathan MacKinnon.
  • Peel things back to two-year totals and Kucherov – Point dominate even more drastically.
  • During the past two postseasons, Kucherov tops all point producers with 66 points in 48 games. Point is second with 56. Hedman (in 48 games) and Nathan MacKinnon (in just 25) tie for third with 40. No one else even flirted with 40 points (Mikko Rantanen‘s fifth with 34 points in 25 games; Josh Bailey generated 33 points in 41 contests). With 28 goals, Point easily topped all snipers, with Nathan MacKinnon a distant second with 17.

It’s difficult to score in the modern playoffs … but Kucherov and Point sometimes made it look almost easy.

Just consider their production against the super-stingy Barry Trotz Islanders.

Kucherov vs. Islanders in Lightning Stanley Cup repeat runs: 

2021: nine assists in seven games; 2020: 10 points (2G, 8A) in six games

Point vs. Islanders in Lightning Stanley Cup repeat runs:

2021: eight points (6G, 2A) in seven games; 2020: seven points (3G, 4A) in four games

When Trotz’s Islanders can’t slow you down — even when you’re hurt and/or injured — then you’ve accomplished special things.

No Conn Smythe wins, but Kucherov and Point made history

Nikita Kucherov became the first player since Mario Lemieux (1991 and 1992) to lead the postseason in points during consecutive playoffs. When you consider the history Kucherov’s made, it underscores the need to give him Conn Smythe-adjacent attention.

Seriously, consider how often Kucherov’s playoff dominance stands among some of the marks set by Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, and other legends:

Not surprisingly, Brayden Point made some playoff history, too.

[More on Vasilevskiy winning the Conn Smythe]

With 14 goals in each playoff year of the Lightning’s Stanley Cup repeat run, Point topped all goal scorers. He’s the first to do so in back-to-back runs since 1988.

Most prominently, Point generated a streak of nine consecutive playoff games with at least one goal, finishing just behind former Flyers forward (and Conn Smythe winner) Reggie Leach’s 10-game record.

For all of the scoring, Point and Kucherov checked most of the “fancy stats” boxes, too. Via Natural Stat Trick, Kucherov and Point were dominant whether you look at expected goals, high-danger chances, or just goals for and against at all strengths.

Player xG% 2020 xG% 2021 HDCF% 2020 HDCF% 2021 GF 2020 all GA 2020 all GF 2021 all GA 2021 all
Nikita Kucherov 65.26 52.01 64.1 54.62 46 16 40 12
Brayden Point 62.89 52.16 63.38 54.78 41 17 41 12

From an all-around perspective, Point and Kucherov combined for an even more impressive run in 2020. But thanks to blistering power play work, and great finishing, the end result was strikingly similar (the Lightning scoring about 30 more goals than they allowed when the two were on the ice).

None of this is to say that Andrei Vasilevskiy wasn’t the right Conn Smythe choice over Kucherov and Point, in particular.

Instead, it’s important to realize just how absolutely crucial the Point – Kucherov combination was during the Lightning’s Stanley Cup repeat runs. With all due respect to Hedman and other Lightning players, the Stanley Cup repeat comes down to Vasilevskiy, Kucherov, and Point — and the main source of debate should be where to rank each Conn Smythe-caliber contributor.

With that, the Lightning can still dream of a “three-peat.” Despite possible changes lingering, they still have Kucherov – Point, a duo that figures to remain dynamic for some time.

Read recaps from every game of Lightning Stanley Cup repeat run

STANLEY CUP FINAL: CANADIENS vs. LIGHTNING (TB wins series 4-1)

Game 1: Lightning 5, Canadiens 1
Game 2: Lightning 3, Canadiens 1
Game 3: Lightning 6, Canadiens 3
Game 4: Canadiens 3, Lightning 2 (OT)
Game 5: Lightning 1, Canadiens 0

STANLEY CUP SEMIFINALS: LIGHTNING vs. ISLANDERS (TB wins series 4-3)

Game 1: Islanders 2, Lightning 1
Game 2: Lightning 4, Islanders 2
Game 3: Lightning 2, Islanders 1
Game 4: Islanders 3, Lightning 2
Game 5: Lightning 8, Islanders 0
Game 6: Islanders 3, Lightning 2 (OT)
Game 7: Lightning 1, Islanders 0

SECOND ROUND: LIGHTNING vs. HURRICANES (TB wins series 4-1)

Game 1: Lightning 2, Hurricanes 1
Game 2: Lightning 2, Hurricanes 1
Game 3: Hurricanes 3, Lightning 2 (OT)
Game 4: Lightning 6, Hurricanes 4
Game 5: Lightning 2, Hurricanes 0

FIRST ROUND: PANTHERS vs. LIGHTNING (TB wins series 4-2)

Game 1: Lightning 5, Panthers 4
Game 2: Lightning 3, Panthers 1
Game 3: Panthers 6, Lightning 5 (OT)
Game 4: Lightning 6, Panthers 2
Game 5: Panthers 4, Lightning 1
Game 6: Lightning 4, Panthers 0

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Scroll Down For: