By scoring a goal and an assist this evening against the Buffalo Sabres, Nikita Kucherov became the third member of the Tampa Bay Lightning to reach the 100 point mark in a season. He joins Vincent Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis as the only players to hit the century mark in a Lightning uniform. At 24-years-old, Kucherov also becomes the youngest player to reach that mark in Tampa history.
Lecavalier holds the franchise record with 108 points, a plateau he reached in 2006-07 at 26 years-old. He scored 52 goals that season and finished 4th in Hart Trophy voting (Sidney Crosby won with Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur finishing second and third).
It was in the same season that St. Louis also broke the 100 point mark as he finished with 102 points. For his part, St. Louis scored 43 goals of his own as he and Lecavalier ran roughshod over Eastern Conference goalies that season. St. Louis finished 14th in Hart voting that season. Despite having two 100 point scorers in the line-up the Lightning finished second in the Southeast Division and were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by the New Jersey Devils. That’s what happens when your best goalie, Johan Holmqvist, posts a .893 Save Percentage on the season.
The good news for Kucherov is that he has a much better goalie and the team should fair much better in the postseason this year. Much like Lecavalier, Kucherov has a linemate that is having a decent season as well. While it’s not likely that Steven Stamkos will join Kucherov in the Century Club, he does have an impressive 86 points on the season.
For Kucherov, this is another notch in his belt in terms of personal accomplishments. In 2015-16 he had his first 30 goal season. The following season he hit the 40 goal season. With a record hot start to the season (goals in the first 7 games of the season) it seemed like the 50 goal, or even the 60 goal, mark was in reach. His goal scoring slowed a bit in the second half, but he continued to add points. In the first 41 games of the season he had 26 goals, in the games following he only had 11 and suffered an 11-game goalless streak which ended any realistic chance he had at hitting 50 goals.
To get to 100 points in a season, a player has to be remarkably consistent, and Kucherov has been that this year. There have been only 16 games where he hasn’t recorded at least one point and has had streaks of 11 (to start the season), 10, 9 and 5 (twice) games in which he has had at least one point to his name. Only three times this season has he gone two or more games without seeing his name in the scoring column, the longest pointless streak - 3 games. That’s amazing reliable in this day and age where teams focus on and tailor their game plans to shut down players.
Getting to 100 points is an amazing feat, especially in this era of hockey. Since Kucherov entered the league in 2013-14 only three players have achieved the feat. Last season it was just Connor McDavid (100). Patrick Kane (106) was the sole player to do it in 2015-16. Nobody hit it in 2014-15 and Sidney Crosby (104) was the lone member of the club in 2013.
With McDavid already having achieved the feat this will be the first season with multiple 100-point players since 2009-10 when there were four - Henrik Sedin (112), Sidney Crosby (109), Alex Ovechkin (109) and Nicklas Backstrom (101). Whether it was the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights and the dilution of talent in the league or the crackdown on slashing, offense was up for the league this year and Kucherov took advantage of it.
Unlike last season, Kucherov has done the bulk of his goal scoring at even strength. Of his 37 goals, 30 of them were at even strength. Last season he scored a league-leading 17 power play goals and 23 at even strength. He is still adding points on the power play as he has a career-high 27 assists with the man advantage.
Will this be a one-time act accomplishment for Kucherov like it was for St. Louis and Lecavalier or the first of many 100-point seasons? As mentioned earlier, he is only 24-years-old and is, in theory, still in his prime. His linemates should remain the same for at least one more season so there is no reason to think he can’t duplicate this effort at least one more time in his career. Even if the line-up is drastically changed after the 2018-19 season, Kucherov will still be a consideration for cracking 100 points on a yearly basis. No matter who he has played with over the last two seasons, he’s racked up the points. That should continue even if it’s Brayden Point or Anthony Cirelli skating next to him instead of Steven Stamkos.
His style of play is very conducive to piling up points. His shot is lethal and accurate from anywhere in the offensive zone. He is also willing to dish the puck out more so than other Russian goal-scoring wingers. That allows him to stay on the scoresheet during those rare stretches when his shooting grows cold. It also helps create space for him as defenses have to respect his passing ability while trying to shut down his shooting. That’s not an easy task.
Congratulations from the entire Raw Charge staff (even el Seldo) to Nikita Kucherov on joining the 100 point club for the Tampa Bay Lightning.