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Kucherov Plays Himself into the History Books

June 6, 2021, 8:19 PM ET [52 Comments]
Michael Stuart
Tampa Bay Lightning Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
In working to earn a 3-1 series lead over the Carolina Hurricanes, the Tampa Bay Lightning have delivered a real mixed bag in the on-ice performance department. They probably didn’t deserve to come out of Carolina with two opening wins, but they probably deserved better than a Game 3 defeat. Game 4 was a microcosm of the series as a whole, with some good and some bad mixed in on the road to victory.

One of the major reasons that the Lightning have been able to build a commanding 3-1 series lead despite not being as dominant as that tally would suggest is the play of Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov has compiled six points through four games in the series, with three of those points coming in the most recent game. His 17 points through 10 playoff games lead the league by a not-insignificant margin.

As those numbers would suggest, Kucherov hasn’t missed a beat since returning from hip surgery at the start of the postseason. Despite missing every single regular season game, and not having the luxury of any time to reacquaint himself with game pace, Kucherov looks as dominant as ever; that’s especially true on the power play.

When all those offensive contributions are added up, Kucherov’s numbers have helped to push him into a conversation with some of the game’s all-time greats:

It's probably not unreasonable to say that Kucherov has played his way into the Hockey Hall of Fame, even as he still has miles of career runway left ahead of him. He’s a Stanley Cup Champion. An Art Ross winner. A Hart winner. A Ted Lindsay winner. While players like Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, and Nathan MacKinnon rightly generate headlines about being the “best” in hockey, Kucherov is right there and belongs in that conversation as well. The undersized Russian winger who doesn’t say much off the ice sure makes a loud, outsized impact on the ice.

With the Hurricanes being as good as they are, this current series is far from over. The fourth win is the hardest to get in any series, and particularly so against a great time like the Hurricanes. If the Lightning are going to seal the deal and move on to the next round, though, you can almost guarantee that Kucherov will play a big part in them getting there.

As always, thanks for reading.
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