2022 Stanley Cup playoffs- How Lightning star Nikitakucherov’s emotional Journey powers his production

TAMPA BAY Nikita Kucherov Doesn't have a poker face.

ESPN analyst said, “He's the type guy that you can tell when things go well or not, on and off the hockey ice, based upon his body language.” Ryan CallahanKucherov's former Linemate with The Tampa Bay Lightning.

Kucherov's Game 3 in the Eastern Conference finals was a success. Captain Steven Stamkos It was there from the first shift.

“You can still hear the chatter from the bench when he comes off. [the ice]. It was the guys who knew that the best player in a big game is the one you are playing. He set the tone. Stamkos added that when you look at the final game, you can see that he contributed to each goal and made great plays on every one of them.”

Kucherov scored one goal and assisted on two more to lead the Lightning's rally after a two-goal deficit. Kucherov was engaged and active defensively, even to the point of antagonism. New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin Rangers coach Gerard Gallant referred to a slash to the back of the leg as “the dirt under the play” in Game 3.

“It's crucial for everyone to step up and improve their game. It's 2-0. You are now on home ice. Kucherov declared after the win, “You want to play better in the next two games.”

Kucherov received a minus-2 for Game 1, and failed to earn a point. His frustration was palpable and obvious. His teammates expected him to react to this effort.

Stamkos stated that if he doesn’t feel the game meets his standards, he can always go to the next one.

The Lightning have scored five goals in Game 1. Kucherov has scored a point in all five games.

This version of Kucherov is now familiar to NHL fans:

  • He is second in regular season points-per-game behind Connor McDavid The Hart Trophy was won in 2018-19 by the league MVP, after winning it the previous three seasons.

  • He has scored an astonishing 88 points in 65 playoffs games, which helped to lead the Lightning back-to-back Stanley Cup win.

  • He is not affected by adversity.

Kucherov's life was anything but simple.

Coach Jon Cooper stated that “Kuch's enemy is himself.” He expected to be the best player on ice every night. He expected that everything would go according to plan. It didn't work out, frustration set in.”


Cooper has been Kucherov's head coach since 2013-14 when he was a rookie. The three-year journey for Cooper included playing as an 18-year-old for the CSKA Red Army Jr. hockey team, then for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for both the Quebec Remparts & Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Cooper then split his time between the Lightning and the Syracuse Crunch of AHL, where he was the head coach for the first time.

Although he was an offensively skilled prospect, he only scored 18 points in his 52 NHL games.

Cooper said, “When you are from another country, or a different culture it takes time for you to adapt.”

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Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay's catcher, passes Igor Shesterkin with a flawless shot to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead.

Callahan was a Lightning rookie in Kucherov’s first season. Callahan didn't know much about Russian prospect until he was traded to Lightning in 2014. He began skating with Kucherov on a line. Valtteri Filppula. However, he was impressed by Kucherov's abilities and the talent of the team's young players and decided to sign a Tampa extension.

“As a younger guy, he was very skilled. But, he clearly is not the same player now. It takes confidence and time to learn the league. To be able to understand the limitations of what you can and cannot do. Callahan explained when it is appropriate to make extra moves and when it is not.

“It takes time. It's funny how everyone now looks at the league and expects these guys light up in their first year or second year. It's a failure if they don't. He continued. “Well, not all players are like Connor McDavid.” Auston MatthewsThey can then jump in the league and take control. Some guys take a while.

Kucherov's second season in 2014-15 was a success thanks to his “The Triplets” line, which he created with center. Tyler Johnson Winger and Ondrej Palat. It was one the most successful trios in the NHL's past decade: The Lightning scored 67% of all goals at even strength in the regular season, and in the playoffs where Tampa Bay lost to Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final.

“He was always great. It was his confidence. He is confident. (Johnson, third “Triplet,” was removed due to salary-cap concerns and is now playing alongside the Chicago Blackhawks.)

Kucherov scored 30 goals in 2015-16 for his first goal. He then scored 40 goals in 2016-17. He scored his first 100-point season in 2015-16, and then he scored 40 goals in 2016-17. This coincided with an important development in his game: Kucherov's playmaking skills, which saw him record 61 assists.

His playmaking skills are the part that doesn't get enough credit. Everyone talks about his shot, his release, and other things. Callahan stated that his patience with the puck, and his ability find his teammates are what really stand out to me. He has made significant progress in that area. He knows how to draw in defenders and locate his teammates when they are open. “Sees the ice very well.”

The offense was there. Kucherov and many of his teammates had yet to grasp what Cooper was trying instill in them: Team success must start with championship-level defence.

“Kuch is not just an example of it. Callahan said that he thinks he's the best example.

Coop and him were in a bit of an argument. They disagreed at times and tried to figure out what was going on. He convinced him to accept that system. To win, you must do that. “We weren't completely committed to this when I was there. We didn't win.”

In reality, the Lightning had a dramatic loss to fully commit to it — a loss which embarrassed Kucherov.


Cooper admits that 2019 is the most important year in his life.

It was the lowest point of the Lightning core. embarrassing first-round sweep By the Columbus Blue Jackets The Lightning had the second-best regular season ever in NHL history. It was also, perhaps not by accident, one of the worst seasons of Kucherov’s career. He was scoreless in Games 1, 2 and 3. Then, he was suspended for Game 3, following a reckless hit from behind by the Columbus defenseman. Markus Nutivaara In the third period, Tampa was trailing 5-1.

NHL Department of Player Safety called this hit “message sending” in the late game. The series was ending.

Kucherov was back for Game 4, and had two assists. But the Lightning's playoff hopes were dashed and Kucherov's ego was hurt.

“You can see the frustration in everyone in that series. Kuch was one. Cooper explained that Kuch was one of them. Cooper asked, “Now, did that moment make him different? It was not an easy moment, but it has all been worth it. That's growth.”

Since then, the Lightning has played 10 rounds in playoffs. They have won them all. Kucherov has participated in 62 playoff games. He has scored at most one point in 44 of these playoff games. His production is not the only thing that's noteworthy, but his play in general.

He's hard at work backchecking, as you can see. He always puts himself in the best position. Callahan added that he learned this by worrying about his Dzone. It's opening up more offense. “He has evolved over the years. He didn't come into the league as an incredible player. He was able to adapt.”

This evolution resulted in moments such as those against the Rangers in Game 3. He scored a power play goal to reduce the Rangers' 2-0 lead. To tie the game, he helped to create a Stamkos goal in the third period. His touch pass to Palat was the winning goal.

“Kuch made some unrealistic plays,” stated the defenseman. Victor Hedman. “You see Kuch in a slot, and you try to give the puck to him. Pally makes a fantastic pass.”

Cooper said that Cooper expects it from a star player, who is also his most difficult critic.

“He gets frustrated only with himself. Cooper stated, “That's probably one thing I can coach.”

“He has won a Hart Trophy, been an electrifying player, and he has two Stanley Cup rings. These teams are blessed with these types of players when they get to that point. Kuch is that. He's a unique, special talent. There are always a few players that can break the game, even if you're the last remaining team. He's the one for us.”

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