Despite all that happened in the postseason, there’s no denying the season that the Tampa Bay Lightning had was legendary.
A 62-win season has only happened once before, and the Lightning broke just about every single franchise record that they had previously set. One of the best players on the Lightning roster was Nikita Kucherov, who had an absolutely unreal performance over the course of the season.
Kucherov played all 82 games this season for the Lightning, recording 41 goals (0.5 Goals Per Game) and 87 assists (1.06 Assists Per Game), which totals 128 points on the season (1.56 Points Per Game). He ranked tied for sixth in goals around the league, first in assists (12 more than second place McDavid), and first in points (12 more than second place McDavid).
He averaged a career high of 19:58 Time On Ice (TOI), starting his shifts in the offensive zone 57.3% of the time. He had a 52.6 Corsi-For% (CF%) and a 52.7 Fenwick-For% (FF%). As pointed out in a recent article by fellow Puck77 writer Tony Ferrari, PDO relatively shows luck, and having a 1.000 or higher is good, and under means you’re having bad luck. This season, Kucherov had a 1.207 PDO, which shows he got a lot of bounces this season that worked in his favor.
Kucherov had an expected goals for (xGF) of 71.5 this season, and an expected goals against (xGA) of 62.9. In the ever-so disappointing post-season, Kucherov recorded two assists in three games, as he was suspended in game 3. He notched both assists in game 4.
Upon looking at what can be considered more basic stats, let’s take a deeper dive into more advanced statistics to get a better idea on how well Kucherov actually was. Using CJ Turtoro’s A3Z Player Comparison Tool’s information, I put together my own visual using a spider graph.
Looking at the visual, Kucherov doesn’t have any real weaknesses. He is excellent at entering the offensive zone, as well as breaking the puck out of the defensive zone. Once in the offensive zone, he is spectacular. He could shoot a little bit more, but he racks up shot assists per 60 minutes (ShotAssists60) and shot contributions per 60 (ShotContr60). If this visual doesn’t paint a picture of his dominance, here is Sidney Crosby’s numbers added in to compare.
Does that paint the picture? Kucherov is slightly better entering the zone, and shoots more than Crosby, but is miles ahead of Crosby when it comes to breaking out of the defensive end. He played a far more balanced game then Crosby, and it went a long way into getting Kucherov to achieve those outstanding numbers this season.
We know about his offensive contributions, with the Hart Trophy in his possession and all. But he excelled in transition, as shown in the visuals above, so let’s take a deeper dive into his transitional game. Let’s use CJ Turtoro’s Exit/Entry Possession visuals to check that out.
First, let’s look at his Exits per 60 minutes:
As shown above, Kucherov was the Lightning’s top ranked player when it came to breaking the puck out of the defensive zone. He mainly passed the puck up to a teammate and out of the zone or carried it out himself. He had the occasional dump out of the zone and a few clears here and there. But he never iced the puck from his own end, and he very rarely failed getting it out. He was outstanding in this aspect of the game last season. So, how about entering the offensive zone? Here’s CJ Turtoro’s Entry per 60 visual:
Again, Kucherov was the top ranked player on the Lightning when it came to entering the offensive zone. He nearly doubled everyone else with entry passes, and dominated when he was forced to carry it in himself. He did dump the puck in quite a bit, and he was stopped plenty, but he was constantly relied on to break in, so of course his Fails per 60 (Fails/60) is going to be a bit high. Regardless, he was a force in the offensive zone and, as shown in all the visuals produced, can be considered elite in the transition.
Just about every fan has been praising and glorifying his offensive output this season. Yes, 128 points in a single season in this era is outstanding and will be hard to replicate for anyone. But there’s a lot more to hockey than just points. Kucherov was able to rack up all those points because he excelled in the defensive zone and dominated in the transition, which allowed for him to break into the offensive zone and get those opportunities.
All Stats via hockey-reference
The Spider Charts used Data from CJ Turtoro, created by Kyle Pereira
Exit/Entry Visuals from CJ Turtoro
Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals