Right now it feels impossible to stop Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov. In the team’s 2-1 win over the Sabres on Thursday night, Kucherov scored the lone goal for his team, finishing a 2-on-1 for his 100th point of the season, and notched the clincher in the shootout. Kucherov had 85 points in 2016-17 and a nice, round 100 last season, but reaching the century mark after playing just 62 games is something else entirely.
The Lightning, as a unit, play some of the most beautifully in-sync hockey I’ve ever seen—particularly on the power play, where they’ve scored a league-best 29.8 percent of the time. But Kucherov is the versatile maestro of this force of nature, and his presence in the right circle with the man advantage is the scariest sight an opponent can see.
“It’s kind of hard to believe,” Brayden Point said about his teammate’s achievement. “But then you watch the games and you see the chances (Kucherov) creates every night and you understand why he’s got that many points. He just makes our team better, his linemates, anyone who’s one the ice.”
Here are some fun facts about the 25-year-old who wasn’t picked until the 58th spot in the 2011 draft:
- This is the first time since Mario Lemieux in 1996-97 that a player has picked up 100 points in 62 games or fewer.
- Kucherov is the first Lightning player in franchise history to have multiple 100-point seasons.
- The only other active players who have pulled off back-to-back 100-point years are Joe Thornton, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, and Connor McDavid.
- Kucherov is only the fourth Russian player to achieve the feat, after Pavel Bure, Malkin, and Ovechkin.
- Kucherov’s 70 assists lead second-place Blake Wheeler by a whopping 13, and his 100 points are eight better than Patrick Kane.
- The three top point-scorers on the power play this season are a trio of Tampa Bay Lightning players. Kucherov leads the way with 39.
The Lightning, by the way, are just one win away from hitting 100 points themselves, with still 20 games left in the season. They’re a full 17 points clear of Calgary right now for the Presidents’ Trophy, and they have a decent shot at beating the 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings’ 124-point mark, which is the best of the salary-cap era. If Kucherov keeps this ridiculous performance going, he can take them there.