Nikita Kucherov still on pace to make history despite Lightning's recent struggles

Mike Carlson/GettyImages

Nikita Kucherov's historic season continues despite the Lightning's back-to-back losses. With only two games remaining in the regular season for Tampa Bay, Kucherov is on the verge of achieving something that’s only been done by four other players in NHL history. He currently has 141 points on the 280 goals scored by the Lightning as a team this year, putting him above 50 percent on the season. Connor McDavid did it a few years ago in 2018/19, contributing on a 116 out of the Oilers 229 goals scored that year. Before him it hadnt been done in close to 20 years, when/since Jaromir Jagr did it in 1998-99, putting up 127 points on 242 goals scored by the Pittsburgh Penguins that season.

If Kucherov can maintain this scoring rate, he’ll join McDavid, Jagr, Wayne Gretzky, and Mario Lemieux as the only players to do so for a full season. Talk about an impressive list of names!

On Thursday night, the Lightning hosted the Ottawa Senators, who, despite being a weaker team, have always given Tampa Bay a tough game. Number 86 started off the game by setting up two backhanded goals in the first period. The first was a slick spin-o-rama pass to Conor Sheary, followed by a beautiful dish to Brayden Point from one of Kucherov’s favourite passing spots, the corner area behind the net. 

Unfortunately, the Lightning weren't able to score any more goals after the first period and lost the game in a shootout. They then traveled to the nation's capital to face off against Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. The Capitals' desperate determination, fueled by the injury of defensemen Nick Jensen and a tight race in the Eastern Conference for the final wildcard spot, proved to be too much for the Lightning to handle, as they lost 4-2.

There was a lot of contrast between these last two games, for Kucherov in particular. In the loss to Ottawa he contributed on all of the teams goals, whereas in the second game, he was defended a lot more effectively and held off the scoresheet entirely. 

Even with the team starting off the month of April with a record of three wins and four losses, Kucherov continues to maintain a 50 point lead over the Lightning’s next highest scorer, Brayden Point, who currently has 89 points. The reason for this gap being so massive is due to John Cooper’s wise decision to double-shift him when down in games. Kucherov’s league-leading 52 power-play points are also a result of this, as he often stays on the ice for the second power play unit, showcasing his stamina and ability to set up anyone he plays with.

In addition, he is two assists away from becoming the fourth player in NHL history to have 100 in a single season. McDavid currently has 99, though considering that the Oilers play their games at a later start time than the Lightning, Kucherov has a better chance of reaching the milestone first come Monday night.

Will Kucherov join the over 50 percent club? Will he reach 100 assists before McDavid? Has he done enough to win the Hart trophy as this year's MVP? Only a couple more games remain for these questions to be answered, as the thrilling 2024 NHL season draws to a close.