Can Bolts’ fans keep up with Kucherov?

by Gary Shelton on February 22, 2019 · 1 comment

in general

Tyler Johnson finds Nikita Kucherov for a Lightning goal./JEFFREY S. KING

Friday, 4 a.m.

Is he better than Marty? Is he better than Vinny? Is he better than Stammer?

Kucherov had some fight in the victory./JEFFREY S. KING

At this point, we are down to this: Is Nikita Kucherov better than anybody who has ever played for the Tampa Bay Lightning?

The time has come to ask the question. Of all the players the Bolts have had, of all the goals they have scored, has anyone been better than Kucherov? Has there ever been a bigger threat as he skates down the ice? Has anyone ever distributed the puck as efficiently?

This won't surprise anyone, but Kucherov, the scoring machine of the Bolts, led the way once again Thursday night. He scored a goal, and he scored in the shootout, and he led the Lightning to a 2-1  victory over the Buffalo Sabres. It was the Lightning's eighth straight win.

Kucherov scored 100 points in just 62 games./JEFFREY S. KING

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Vasilevskiy won his 28th game of the season./JEFFREY S. KING

In the victory, Kucherov had his second straight 100-point season, the first player in franchise history to have more than one (Vinny LeCavalier had 108 and Marty St. Louis had 102).

Kucherov now has 100 points in 62 games. Kucherov became just the sixth player in NHL history to record 100 points in 62 games or less since 1993-

Hedman protects the Lightning goal./JEFFREY S. KING

94 and the first to do so since Mario Lemieux hit 100 points in 61 games in 1996-97.

Kucherov now has 30 goals on the season and is the first Lightning player to score 30 goals and 70 assists in the same season.

Kucherov wouldn't talk about his individual points.

“He was dominant out there tonight," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of Kucherov. "The kid wants to win and wears his emotions on his sleeve. There’s not too much more you can say about him. He’s a remarkable player and he’s having an amazing season.

“The biggest thing for me is how excited the guys were for him. To do it in 62 games, I think in the last 20 years he’s in some pretty elite company to do that. He’s doing it on a team that’s having a lot of success, and he’s a huge part of that.”

Miller had a combative night for Tampa Bay./JEFFREY S. KING

Said forward Brayden Point: "He is a guy you can watch and learn a lot from. You know you talk on the bench with him about things that maybe you don’t see, but he does. Obviously just offensively, he gets me the puck in such good areas. He gets all of the guys pucks in good areas. So he has helped me for sure a lot.”

And Tyler Johnson: "Kuch is a complete player. He battles. He competes. There’s a reason why he’s where he’s at. He’s one of the best players. I love playing with him, I love having him on our team. It’s really cool to see him get rewarded the way he did.”

Johnson had the assist for Kucherov's goal.

Point has a scoring attempt stopped./JEFFREY S. KING

“I was a little confused on what the play was there, but it was nice to be able to kind of get it over to Kuch. I passed it to him and pretty much knew it was in.”

The Bolts played a feisty Buffalo team that had a 1-0 lead.

The Lightning is now 47-11-4 on the season.

“We’ve won them all different ways and we’ve won a few this year," Cooper said. "You’re getting the other team’s best shot. We’re not getting their best shot because we’re ahead in the standings, we’re getting their best shot because all these teams are trying to make the playoffs. For our guys, it’s a testament to them and their consistency and their ability to pull out games.”

The Lightning plays against the Los Angeles Kings Monday night at Amalie Arena. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:30 p.m.

Stamkos scores the game-winner in the shootout./JEFFREY S. KING







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