Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov keep racking up points and the Lightning keep rolling in early-season wins.

By Michael Blinn
October 22, 2017

Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov have the Lightning off to an electric start.

The duo combined for seven points in a 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, helping the Bolts tie their franchise-best start with a league-leading 7-1-1 record. 

For Stamkos, it was a night chock full of points—he tied a career mark with four (one goal, three assists), climbing atop the league in scoring with 18 points—and milestones. His first-period power play tally was the 113th of his career, passing Vincent Lecavalier for the most in Tampa Bay history, joining the former Lightning captain as well as ex-teammate Martin St. Louis as the only players to have scored 600 points with the team.

He also joined a couple of exclusive clubs, becoming the fourth player in the the last 24 years to rack up 15 assists in his team’s first nine games of the season, and the fourth to average two points per game in the same span (Thomas Vanek - BUF, 2012-13, Mario Lemieux - PIT, 02-03, and Jaromir Jagr - PIT 99-00). 

It’s a bit of a new look for Stamkos, who made his mark as a goal scorer after being taken with the No. 1 pick in 2006. Since then, he’s second in goals (324) and power play goals only to Capitals star Alex Ovechkin. His playmaking turn isn’t going unnoticed, either.

“Stammer has really grown as a player,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “When he first came into the league, he was scoring almost at will, and then the injuries have up-and-downed his game because he hasn’t been able to play. He’s really becoming a complete player. To listen to him talk about the defensive side of things on the bench and doing things the right way, you see him and he’s just becoming more of a really well-rounded player.“

“I like to say I always have it in me,” Stamkos said. “When you’ve got a guy like Kuch on your line—I’m sure that there’s a lot of yelling at me to shoot the puck more—he’s so hot, you just try to get him the puck. When you’re getting points, your confidence in your game is extremely high to make plays and to want to make plays.”

After scoring goals in seven straight games to start the 2017-18 campaign, Kucherov was held out of the goal column against the Blue Jackets on Thursday. He picked up where he left off against Pittsburgh, notching a pair of goals and an assist in the win. His 10 goals on the season are tied with Alex Ovechkin for the league lead, while he’s just behind Stamkos in scoring with 16 points.

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Individually, their hot start are notable, but combined they’re even more noteworthy: Stamkos and Kucherov are just the second teammates to have season-opening nine-game point streaks in the last 24 seasons, joining the former Blues duo of Doug Weight and Pavol Demitra in 2001-02.

“That line’s got a lot of chemistry going right now,” Cooper said.  

Would anyone blame the Bolts for having big ideas about the season? After all, sportsbook Bodog currently has the team at 9/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup, an improvement over 11/1 on opening day and second-best behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not to mention, the last time the team started off 7-1-1 was 2003-04, the same season Lecavalier and St. Louis lead the franchise to it’s first title.

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