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Resurgent Kucherov Is Key to Lightning’s 3rd Straight Cup

  • Nikita Kucherov leads the playoffs in power-play points after leading in points last postseason.
  • His $9.5M cap hit is 11th among NHL forwards.
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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After missing the entire 2020-21 regular season and 35 games this campaign, Nikita Kucherov has once again returned with a vengeance in the playoffs, reclaiming his spot among the NHL’s most lethal scorers.

Kucherov posted a goal and three assists in the Lightning’s decisive 5-1 victory over the Panthers on Sunday. Tampa Bay is now one win from a series sweep and another appearance in the Eastern Conference Final.

If the Lightning are going to take home their third straight Stanley Cup — the first since the 1979-83 Islanders won four — the 28-year-old’s offensive prowess will be the driving force.

  • Kucherov’s 32 points led last postseason by some distance — teammate Brayden Point finished second with 23.
  • His 1.47 regular-season points per game were second behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid (1.54).
  • This postseason, Kucherov leads in power-play points (7).

Despite his recent injury history, the eight-year, $76 million extension Kucherov signed in July 2018 is looking better all the time.

His $9.5 million cap hit in 2021-22 — which makes him Tampa Bay’s joint-highest-paid player with goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy — is only tied for 11th among NHL forwards.

The two Russian teammates share another distinction as well: Kucherov and Vasilevskiy are tied (+950) for the third-best odds to win the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP — behind Colorado’s Cale Makar (+600) and Nathan MacKinnon (+650).

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