Per NHL.com, as of January 8th, the Tampa Bay Lightning have lead the National Hockey League in points and goals per game with 63 and 3.64 respectively. The Lightning lead the league in points at 63 as they currently sit at the top of the playoff picture. Tampa Bay has begun the 2018 year 2-1-1 though.
Looking back at December, however, Tampa Bay only had two losses. On December 19th, they traveled to Vegas and lost 3-4, and on the 29th lost to Philadelphia 3-5 at home.
Tampa Bay’s one-point loss to Vegas was their toughest defeat this season so far. Vegas has been second in the league with 58 points, but their victory over Tampa Bay was a statement win in a battle of the two best teams, especially for a team in its inaugural year.
Going forward, Tampa Bay will have a second chance at Vegas. On January 18th, Vegas will come and play at 7:30 ET.
A lot of their confidence for their upcoming shot at redemption, and for their season at large, stems from the years Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have had. In 42 games played, Stamkos has 17 goals, 34 assists for 51 points. Kucherov leads the league in goals and points, with 27 and 59, respectively, along with 32 assists.
Stamkos has had a year to remember, coming off an injury-riddled 2016-17 season. His points per game are significantly higher this season (1.21) than for his career average(1.0095), with over a fifth of a point more per game. He also leads the league in power play goals with 12.
Kucherov has taken the league by storm, quite unexpectedly. Few could have expected him to lead the NHL in two of its hardest statistical categories, goals and points. Whether he holds onto the lead for the remainder of the season, Tampa Bay has been very satisfied with his performance thus far.
With these two superstars, the sky can be the limit for Tampa Bay, as well as for the players themselves. If Stamkos and Kucherov can maintain their elite level of play into their next game against Vegas and the playoffs, Tampa Bay will have a great shot at the cup.
For Stamkos, personally, no award has seemed more suitable than the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy, given to the comeback player of the year. He only played in 17 games last season due to a lateral meniscus tear, and this season he has been terrific, consistently staying near the top of the league for points.
For Kucherov, a shot at the Hart Memorial Trophy, given to the most valuable player, can be a wild dream come true. It will be very difficult for Kucherov to keep up this level of play, but thus far, no one has impressed the league more.
It has been a solid first half for Tampa Bay, but their experience has been questioned. Tampa Bay’s last championship season was 2004, and Stamkos, the longest-tenured player, joined the team in 2008.
Most of the team, however, was there for their 2014-15 loss in the Stanley Cup Final. While that experience is great, Chris Kunitz is the only Tampa Bay player with any Stanley Cup victories. He won one with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, and three with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, 2016 and 2017.
Come April, once the playoffs begin, experience will weigh much more heavily than in January. Tampa Bay won’t come into this summer with the ideal playoff experience, but they will have plenty of elite talent, veteran minds, and wins from this season to keep confidence high.