The past three playoff runs for the Tampa Bay Lightning have been a wild and fun ride. Even though this latest one did not end the way we all wanted it to, the games and series still had their great moments. In the process, a number of Lightning players moved up the all-time lists not only for the franchise, but also on the NHL career list. Let’s take a moment to appreciate some individual accomplishments and where they could possibly go before their career is over.
Kucherov was the biggest mover among the Lightning’s skaters after posting three incredible playoff runs. Entering the 2020 NHL Playoffs, Kucherov had played 65 playoff games with 29 goals, 32 assists, and 61 points. On the NHL career list, he was t-177th in goals, t-315th in assists, and t-234th in points. Three seasons later, and Kucherov has 136 playoff games, 52 goals, 102 assists, and 154 points. That makes him t-53rd in goals, t-24th in assists, and 28th in points.
Kucherov has moved himself into a tier that is inhabited mostly by Hall of Famers and the all-time greats of the NHL. He passed names like Stan Mikita, Mark Recchi, Mike Modano, Chris Chelios, Jacques Lemaire, Phil Esposito, Brendan Shanahan, and Guy Lafleur among many others. He now looks up the list at Adam Oates, Mike Bossy, and Gordie Howe just a handful of points ahead of him.
At only 29 years-old, Kucherov still has many effective seasons left in front of him, especially with the high level of skill he has which should allow him to age well and continue to be a great player well into his 30s. The lofty heights that Wayne Gretzky (382) and Mark Messier (295) reached in points is likely out of reach even for the prodigious Kucherov. At 154 points, it wouldn’t be hard to see Kucherov putting up 10-15 points every postseason even with only a first or second round appearance. Average 10 points over just four playoffs, and he’ll be in the top 10 of the NHL All-Time Playoff Scoring ranks. Currently, 9th and 10th place are held by Joe Sakic and Doug Gilmour with 188 points. If he reaches 191 points that would put him in 8th, 197 points would put him in 7th, and 202 points would put him in 5th. Well, for the moment because Sidney Crosby sits tied for 5th right now with Jaromir Jagr with 201 points and Crosby still has some time to add to his totals.
Kucherov wasn’t the only one to make a big move up the career lists over the past three seasons. Victor Hedman entered this run with 84 games played, 7 goals, 41 assists, and 48 points. Among NHL Defensemen, that placed him t-137th in goals, t-54th in assists, and t-70th in points. Hedman put up three big post seasons with 22, 18, and 19 points respectively and scored 10 goals in the 2020 playoff run. With all of the scoring he put up, he moved into t-24th in goals, 13th in assists, and 13th in points among defensemen. Hedman also became the second player in franchise history to reach the 100 point plateau in the playoffs with the team.
Like Kucherov, Hedman has put himself among the all-time greats on the blue line in playoff performances. He needs just 15 more points to overtake Chris Pronger to put himself into the top 10 all-time among defensemen. Hedman is past 30, which means he is on the back side of his career. But there’s so much skill, so much competitive spirit there, that it won’t be a surprise to see him playing deep into his 30s. Maybe even until he’s 40. That should give him ample opportunities to make his way up the list. The top of the list is probably out of reach with Paul Coffey (196), Nicklas Lidstrom (183), and Ray Bourque (180) sitting at the top of the list. The top five is also a far reach with Denis Potvin’s 165 and Al MacInnis’ 160. But Top 10? Definitely within grasp for the big Swede.
Andrei Vasilevskiy entered this three-year run with a 15-15 record in 28 starts and 33 games played in the playoffs. He also have a .912 SV% and 2.83 GAA with no shutouts and no points. It should be no surprise then that winning 16, 16, and 14 games would move him well up the career goalie playoffs lists with his wins only putting him tied for 87th most. Now he sports a 63-38 record with a .923 SV%, 2.30 GAA, and 7 shutouts including a shutout in five consecutive series clinching games, an NHL record.
With 63 wins Vasy is now 13th on the all-time wins list in the playoffs. It feels like Vasilevskiy should be older because of how long he’s been with the team and how much success he has had, but he only turns 28 in a month. He has plenty of game left in him and with the high level he plays at could still be a great goaltender for many years to come. Health and the quality of the team in front of him will play a big factor in just how long and how far he can go in the future. It would take him just eight more wins to tie 10th place Jacques Plante and nine wins to take 10th place by himself. It’s not at all hard to see him reaching that level.
To make it into the top five, he’d need 26 more wins to pass Ed Belfour for fifth by himself. That’s a little steeper hill to climb and will be very dependent on how well the team continues to perform and if Julien BriseBois can successfully retool the team as some of the core gets older and before Vasilevskiy falls off at the end of his career.