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Kucherov’s differential is bad for a 126-point guy
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot
To build a competitive team, you need a lot of elements. Depth, impact offensive players, leaders and reliable defensive players are all very important, but a goalie who is hot in the moment can take his team far in the playoffs.

A very good defensive brigade, however, seems to be one aspect not to be overlooked, as the majority of recent Stanley Cup winners have all had excellent defences.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been the most dominant club for just over five years, with several all-stars including superstars such as Andrei Vasilevskiy and Nikita Kucherov.

The latter is among the NHL’s top scorers every season and is currently on track for his career-best season, peaking at 128 points in 2018-19.

Every player has his strengths and weaknesses, and Kucherov’s biggest weakness is the defensive aspect.

With the recent All-Star Game and skills competitions, we saw the Russian forward’s laziness and nonchalance at its best.

This laziness can easily be transposed to his defensive game, because without effort, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to perform well defensively.

Despite being just one point off the top of the scoring charts this season, with 126 points in 72 games, Kucherov’s differential is atrocious.

Knowing that he’s playing with excellent players and a very good team (despite a season below expectations), a +8 differential with 126 points is simply unacceptable.

(Credit: HockeyDB)

It’s not the first time Kucherov has had a differential that’s completely unrepresentative of his point totals, but it hasn’t always been this way.

Last year, Kucherov collected 113 points and posted a differential of -2…

The year before that, 69 points in 47 games and a +/- of +1.

I understand that differential is a team statistic and that Kucherov doesn’t have to excel defensively. As I mentioned, every player has his strengths and weaknesses, and you can’t expect much defensively from a purely offensive player.

But there’s a middle ground too.

It reminds me of Alex Ovechkin’s 2013-14 season, another offensive-oriented player, when he scored 51 goals and 79 points in 78 games, but with a differential of -35.

Now that’s more than atrocious. But we always knew that defense and Ovechkin didn’t mix.

But we saw a marked improvement the following year, when the Washington Capitals changed head coaches to Barry Trotz.

With his defensive system, he transformed Ovechkin almost overnight.

In 2014-15, Ovechkin greatly improved his differential from -35 to +10.

So, if Ovechkin could improve this aspect of his game, why couldn’t Kucherov?

Without necessarily changing coaches, there could be some defensive tightening in training, or even some individual sessions to improve his defensive game.

However, what seems to be the problem with Kucherov’s defensive game isn’t his lack of talent, because anyone can learn to play defensively.

Rather, it’s his laziness, and without motivation/interest to improve this, there’s not much to be done, unfortunately.

At least Tampa Bay can rely on its offensive contribution, and that’s where having different types of players on a team is very important to get far in the playoffs. Clearly, it seems to have worked for the Lightning, who have enjoyed a great deal of success in recent years.

Breaking news

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– Too bad.

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– Here are the eight games on the schedule for Monday, April 1ᵉʳ, 2024.

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