Chasing Greatness: Kucherov’s record-breaking week

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Last week, Nikita Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning had one of their busiest stretches of the season. With four games crammed into a six-day span, and a playoff spot up for grabs, it was important for the team to play well. Although they only won half of their games, Tampa Bay clinched it’s seventh straight playoff berth, which is all that matters for a team with such a championship pedigree.

After starting off the week with a disappointing loss at home to the Detroit Red Wings on April Fools Day, the Lightning bounced back a day later in a much anticipated game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

This was the first time Kucherov had been back in Toronto since his memorable performance during the 2024 All-Star tournament. The city seemed to prepare for his arrival, with rain pouring throughout the day, almost as if nature itself was ready to greet the returning star.

That night, his three-point performance led the Lighting to a 4-1 win over the Leafs and brought him up to a total of 130 points for the year. The second of those points was a beautiful pass to Brayden Point from behind the net, which broke the Tampa Bay franchise record for most points in a season.

This milestone also marked the record for most points in a season by a Russian-born player, with both achievements previously belonging to Kucherov. In his previous record-breaking campaign during the 2018/19 season, Kucherov won almost every regular season award, including the Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP), Ted Lindsay Award (for the most 'outstanding' player), and Art Ross Trophy (for the most points), as well as leading the Lighting to a franchise first Presidents' Trophy (awarded to the team with the best overall record).

He capped off the week with two stellar performances, tallying three points in each game against the Montreal Canadiens and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Out of the 17 goals scored by his team last week, Kucherov had 10 points.

Despite his league-leading offensive production this season, Kucherov's dominance may appear somewhat overshadowed by the equally remarkable performances of Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon.

Yet, one could argue that what he's been doing for his team all season long, far exceeds what the other two MVP finalists have achieved this year. Two unbelievable stats that solidify him as the true MVP in my opinion are as follows:

Firstly, he boasts a staggering 51-point lead over the second-leading scorer on his team, Brayden Point, who currently has 85 points. In contrast, both McDavid and MacKinnon play alongside teammates who have surpassed the 100-point mark this season, with Leon Draisaitl and Mikko Rantanen recording 102 points each respectively.

Secondly, the Tampa Bay Lightning, as a team, have collectively scored 271 goals this season. Kucherov currently has 136 points, meaning he’s contributed to more than half of the team’s goals this season. Yes, let that sink in for a second.

With just a few games left in the season, it’ll be interesting to see whether Kucherov can maintain this prolific pace and finish the year having contributed to over half of his team’s goals. Such an accomplishment would undoubtedly elevate him to legendary status, placing him in the esteemed company of players like Wayne Gretzky, Connor McDavid, Jaromir Jagr, and Mario Lemieux, who are the only ones to have achieved such a remarkable feat for a full season.