If it were up to me, I would just end the NHL season right now.
In looking at the standings, it is pretty clear that no one is going to catch the Tampa Bay Lightning. The other teams missed their opportunity to gain some ground when the Bolts’ starting goaltender was out with an injury, but the team continued to win night after night.
The team is currently first in all the important standings’ categories. They are first in their division (Atlantic), their conference (Eastern), and the entire league. Really can’t get any better than that.
The Lightning are 32-7-2 for 66 points. They are eight points up on the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are the second best team in the league.
So, why can’t this team be beat? For starters, their offense is relentless.
The team is currently first in the league in goals scored as they have scored 171 goals in 41 games. This means that the Bolts are averaging over four goals per game, which is pretty tough to beat if you their opponent on any given night.
Leading the way for this hockey club is Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov currently has 69 (20 goals and 49 assists) and it appears that no one can stop him.
Last season, Kucherov, 25, was also unstoppable. He finished the year with 100 points (39 goals and 61 assists) and now has 403 points (167 goals and 263 assists) in 406 career games.
Behind Kucherov are players like Brayden Point (54 points), Steven Stamkos (46 points), Tyler Johnson (31 points), and Yanni Gourde (28 points). Clearly, no one has been as good as Kucherov, but how can you be with the way he produces?
With the way this team is clicking on offense, it should come as no surprise that they have the league’s best power play as of this writing. They have converted 30 percent of their opportunities with the man advantage and seem almost impossible to stop in that situation.
Not surprisingly, Kucherov leads the club with 26 power play points while Steven Stamkos has 20. When you have those two guys on the ice with the man advantage, you know that the opponents are in trouble.
The team has also gotten some good goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy, who missed some time with an injury, is currently 16-3-2 with a 2.55 goals-against average, a .924 save percentage, and one shutout.
Vasilevskiy, 24, makes the big saves, has unbelievable athletic ability, and is someone who never gives up on a play. Hopefully, Cooper will rest him as the team gets closer to the playoffs because they will need him at his absolute best if they want to have success in them.
Lastly, the Lightning may be the most complete team in the league. They can put the puck in the net, they play well defensively, and when things get tough on the ice, their star goaltender bails them out.
There is still a good amount of hockey left to be played, but with the way the Lightning are playing right now, they are and certainly will be the team to beat come April.
*Photo: Tampa Bay Times