Nikita Kucherov led the Stanley Cup Playoffs in points, and Brayden Point led in goals for the second straight season to help the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup back to back.
Kucherov, right wing on the top line, scored five points (three goals, two assists) in the Stanley Cup Final and led the playoffs with 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists) in 23 games. He scored 19 points (four goals, 15 assists) on the power play, all after he missed the regular season recovering from hip surgery.
He led last postseason with 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) in 25 games.
Point, center on the top line, led the playoffs with 14 goals and was second with 23 points. He also led last postseason with 14 goals in 23 games.
“Those two guys are magic on ice together, and they’ve done it for years now,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “But two postseasons, they’ve shown what they can do, especially with one of them (Kucherov) not being able to play for 56 straight games and have the chemistry those guys have had throughout. Special players, special moment, special time, and a big reason why we’re up here.”
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Point is the sixth player to lead the playoffs in goals without a tie in back-to-back seasons, and first since Jari Kurri did it with the Edmonton Oilers in 1987 and 1988. Kurri (also 1984-85), Mike Bossy (1982-83), Bobby Hull (1962-63), Gordie Drillon (1938-39) and Howie Morenz (1924-25) are the others.
“For Brayden Point, he’s the straw that stirs the drink on this team,” Cooper said.
To his Lightning teammates, Kucherov’s postseason was more impressive after his regular-season absence.
“I mean, it’s stupid. You miss an entire season and you lead the playoffs by I don’t know how many points (nine),” Lightning forward Blake Coleman said. “The guy’s a special, special player. Obviously, he’s a big reason why we’re here celebrating, a big part of this team. He’s on another level. And I don’t know anyone else who could miss the entire regular season, come back and do what he did. He deserves a ton of credit, he’s a great player, great teammate, great friend.”
Kucherov is the sixth player to lead the postseason in scoring without a tie in consecutive seasons, the first since Mario Lemieux (1991-92). Wayne Gretzky (1987-88), Rick MacLeish (1974-75), Phil Esposito (1969-70) and Morenz (1924-25) are the others. Gretzky is the only player to lead the playoffs outright in three consecutive seasons (1982-85).
Kucherov and Point, and Gretzky and Kurri, are the only teammates to lead the playoffs in points and goals in consecutive postseasons.
“I don’t know what to say,” Kucherov said. “Back to back and I couldn’t sleep for three nights. To be able to win this game is huge.”
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy voted most valuable player of the playoffs, said he was surprised Kucherov didn’t win the award.
“Just the best goal-scorer in the NHL, the smartest player in the NHL for the past few years, and he was a big part of our team these playoffs. I mean, he’s a big part of our team generally,” Vasilevskiy said. “To miss the whole season and come back in the playoffs, and to get more points, second playoffs in a [row], it’s just amazing. Great player, great personality.”