Let's make one thing abundantly clear right off the bat: if you win the Stanley Cup – in back-to-back years, no less – you have therefore earned the right to conduct your post-game media availability in any manner you choose.
Minutes after capping off a postseason run during which he scored nine more points than any other player, Nikita Kucherov could have sat in front of reporters last night and answered each question with "Schwartz's Deli is cafeteria food".
Is that statement true? Of course not. Would it be, in any other circumstance, punishable by the harshest possible measures as outlined by the Geneva Convention? Absolutely. But the man is a back-to-back Stanley Cup champion. And there's nothing you can do about it.
Thankfully, Kucherov did not besmirch one of Canada's most intoxicating culinary experiences last night. He did, however, "pop-off", as the youths like to say.
So, here are Kucherov's five best quotes from the most entertaining TED Talk in recent history.
5. "Let's hear it, Joe"
This one lands on the list not so much for what was actually spoken, but rather for context.
The lead-up to this quote unfolded like a play in three parts. A shirtless, laughing Kucherov began to clap, then threw up a pair deuces to the camera, and finally proceeded to chug an already-open Bud Light as the Lightning's PR staffer tried their darnedest to announce that the first question would be from The Athletic's Joe Smith.
Think back to 2019 and the criticism that followed Kucherov after the President's Trophy-winning Lightning were swept in the first round by a hilariously outmatched Columbus Blue Jackets team. Think, as well, of Kucherov rehabbing from significant shoulder surgery this year in the midst of a pandemic, and how all anyone could talk about was his mere presence in the postseason serving as a form of blasphemous cheating.
That probably didn't feel great. But Kucherov got to sit in front of the same people who sparked those conversations, crack a beer, and laugh. Because that's what champions do.
4. "Buy new microphone"
The Zoom-centric world we now live in has exposed the world, myself included, to one harsh truth: most of us are technologically illiterate.
Whether it's the lawyer who didn't know how to turn off the cat filter during virtual court or the guy at your job who thinks he's getting away with not wearing pants during the weekly budget meeting, Zoom has quickly become the global leader in daily headache production in this new reality to the chagrin of everyone.
This has become abundantly apparent in sports media, an industry (again, myself included) that is seemingly comprised entirely of reporters using X Box gaming headsets from 2006 to conduct their post-game Zoom interviews.
Think about how many times Kucherov sat there this season and tried to answer a garbled, barely-audible question lobbed at him by a reporter sitting hundreds of miles away that he couldn't even see. Now think about how many times he's wanted to reach through the screen, grab said reporter by the jowls, and scream "fix your friggin' mic!".
Kucherov finally got his chance last night, albeit opting for a far more pleasant tone. And it was glorious.
3. "They gave it to, whatever the guy, in Vegas"
Kucherov is a big Andrei Vasilevskiy guy. Did you know this? It's true.
The Russian sniper made his love for the reigning Conne Smythe-winner crystal clear last night in the form of a hilariously off-topic rant to the scrum's first question, and, while doing so, bemoaned the league's decision to give this year's Vezina Trophy to Marc-Andre Fleury. Only, that's not exactly what he did. Rather, Kucherov whittled down the existence of a future Hall of Famer and multi-Cup-winner to the succinct title of Whatever The Guy, In Vegas™.
And if Fleury was smart, he'd be mocking up merch as we speak.
2. "Their final was last series"
*insert Hannibal Burris "Why are you boo-ing me? I'm right!" meme*
Listen, Habs fans are perfectly within their right to celebrate a victory in the Stanley Cup Final. This was a thoroughly mediocre team that ended its 2021 campaign having lost more games than they won. Montreal was never supposed to be here. And yet, by the grace of St. Youpi the Expo, (and a boatload of luck) these scrappy underdogs somehow knocked off three objectively superior teams en route to a Finals birth.
Take that victory and run.
Frankly, the Canadiens' shocking dismantling of the Vegas Golden Knights in round three was, in fact, their Final. The bulk of experts didn't even expect them to win a game, let alone turn one of the league's deepest rosters into an offensively inept taxi squad.
Kucherov doesn't owe you any post-game pleasantries. And there is a precisely zero per cent chance that the Habs faithful would have returned the favour if their circumstances were swapped.
All Kucherov did was tell the truth. And the world is a better place for it.
1. "Number one bull****"
Need I say more?
These three words will go down in hockey history. They will be inscribed on street murals, adorned on t-shirts, and, likely, etched into the plaque on Kucherov's statue that will inevitably rest outside Amalie Arena once all is said and done.
Want to know why? Because they are the words of a champion. Congrats, Kuch.