We live in an era of so much achievement and record breaking in sports. Whether it is the New England Patriots winning their sixth Super Bowl behind Tom Brady in the last two decades, James Harden’s 32-game run of putting up at least 30 points a game, or the Golden State Warriors going for their fourth NBA championship in five years, the storylines of teams and players going for records and establishing dynasties are ones that must be told.
Today in the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nikita Kucherov are those storylines.
The Bolts are sitting comfortably in 1st place of the Atlantic Division, Eastern Conference and NHL after earning their 100th point last night in a shootout win over the Los Angeles Kings. It was only Tampa Bay’s 63rd game on the year which put them in the company of the 1971-72 Boston Bruins and the 1976-77 and 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens. All of those teams, by the way, ended their respective seasons by hoisting the Stanley Cup.
This team has yet to not gain at least a point in February, with an 11-0-2 record so far this month, and has not lost back-to-back games in regulation since way back in November when the Bolts lost to the Ottawa Senators at home (Nov. 10) and to the Sabres in Buffalo (Nov. 13).
The Lightning currently hold a franchise-best nine-straight wins and could set the new record tomorrow night in Madison Square Garden when they play the New York Rangers.
Now this doesn’t mean that the Lightning are guaranteed to win the Cup, so don’t rush off to Vegas and throw your savings account on the Bolts to win it all. But what it does mean is that this Tampa Bay team is one to watch. This is a team that should be drawing the eyes of the sports world, a team that deserves zero criticism for making zero moves at the NHL trade deadline.
It boasts a roster that is deep with young talent with only four players over the age of 30 and three players currently sitting in the NHL’s Top-10 in point leaders this season with Steven Stamkos (75), Brayden Point (79) and the explosive Kucherov (101).
Kucherov is on pace to become the first player to reach 130 scoring points in a season since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr both did it in the 1995-96 season, according to The Athletic. He is the standout frontrunner to win the Art Ross Trophy, awarded to the NHL regular season point leader, and arguably the favorite to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP.
But is all of this just Lightning “flash” or is there something else to be said about this team versus those of prior years? In three of the last four seasons the Lightning made it to at least the Conference Final, with one year including a Cup Final loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. Both of the Conference Final losses came in Game 7s and to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions (Pittsburgh Penguins – 2016, Washington Capitals – 2018).
Yes, let’s celebrate the history being made before our eyes and tell the story of these moments that are making this Lightning team and season a true standout. But let’s not forget that history tells us teams are not remembered by record numbers, but rather by rings, banners and Cups. And this season could very well be the developing storyline of a 27-years-young Lightning franchise making history and hoisting its second Stanley Cup.