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October 25, 2017 | 4:15pm ET
Fully Charged
By Hannah Spraker

ANAHEIM, CA -- Sparks have been flying in Tampa Bay and it would appear that Nikita Kucherov is leading the charge. I could go on and on with the puns... In all seriousness, though, everyone is left in awe of this team right now.

I picked them to win the Stanley Cup last year, but once Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson became injured, that train left, and they missed the playoffs. Now, an energized roster is sending shock waves through the NHL to start the season (told ya!).

So what makes this team so dangerous? Simply put: their depth -- and Kucherov.

This guy is the epitome of every hockey player’s envy, and if you play fantasy and you snagged him, smart move. I live for the slow motion replays of a Kucherov snipe. Personally, I think he is one of the most dynamic players and has the best release in the game when you match it with his accuracy; a goaltender’s worst nightmare.

Already 17 points on the season, 11 of which are goals in only 10 games, joining Mario Lemieux as the only two players in NHL history to score in all of the first seven games of the season. The guy is one fire, on a nine-game point streak, and building a strong case to be an NHL All-Star, and throwing his name in the hat for the Hart.

The fact that Steven Stamkos and Kucherov are playing together on that top line says it all. This year I chose Pittsburgh for the three-peat -- yes fire away naysayers -- but I think Tampa is going to give the Pens a serious run for their money. Stamkos looks like he hasn’t skipped a beat and he is on pace to have one hell of a season. The Lightning is a Stanley Cup team when they are healthy, no doubt -- but the key is why.

We hear it said time and time again that the League is changing and evolving, a copycat league, etc. This is true, the NHL is definitely a skater’s league now where speed absolutely kills, but what we continually see in Stanley Cup championship teams are rosters that can roll four lines -- every single night. That is exactly what Tampa possesses right now.

Look at Montreal. They have the greatest goaltender in the world and are not off to a great start and have a huge gap down the middle. Look at Edmonton, Connor McDavid and not much to show for it at the moment, and many have them winning the Cup this year. Yes, we are only a handful of games into the season, and while we expect teams like Edmonton to pick up the pace, I don’t expect Tampa Bay to slow down.

Vladimir Namestnikov, Stamkos and Kucherov. Talk about a powerhouse top line. Last season, prior to Stamkos’ injury, this line was doing some damage and now they’re even better.

Watching these guy play just even in these first few games is exciting and exactly the style of hockey that fans and media alike want to see. Stamkos staying healthy is going to be extremely important in keeping that dynamic duo alive this season, and by the looks of it he’s good to go and firing on all cylinders. As long and the injury train doesn’t stop in Tampa for too long this season, I expect Tampa’s goal horn to haunt the dreams of some teams around the league.

Tampa’s forward corps is “on point,” for lack of a better phrase, and Brayden Point deserves a bit of the limelight here. The 21-year-old is playing with the big boys and third in points on this team (4 goals 7 assists already), and in just a mere 78 total NHL games, he’s managed to rake in 51 points. Keep an eye on this kid, he’s going places.

When you have guys like Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn and Chris Kunitz scattered across your other three lines, you’re doing alright. When you look at all of the individual players of this team and what they can do -- you can really see how finely tailored this roster is. They have all the pieces of a well oiled machine up front, it is just a matter of staying healthy.

Looking on the blueline, the first guy you think of is Victor Hedman, right? Well, that’s typically true, but the name that has been circling recently is Dan Girardi. Now there has been a great deal of criticism of the 33-year-old NYR buyout, and yeah he’s not the best defenseman, but perhaps he’s doing exactly what they brought him in to do.

There is something that Girardi has certainly caught my eye with, his willingness to throw his body in front of a shot. He is still making himself serviceable and it is not going unnoticed -- Head Coach Jon Cooper sings his praises of leadership.

“You really appreciate him being in your locker room,” Cooper told FOX Sports. “When you have a guy like (rookie defenseman Mikhail) Sergachev... he can go to guys like Girardi, but Girardi goes to him. The other thing is his willingness to sacrifice his body for the betterment of the team.”

In terms of Tampa’s blueline, sure they aren’t the strongest in the League, but I definitely think they are underrated and can be killer on the penalty kill.

Between the pipes, Andrei Vasilevskiy is no Carey Price, no one is, but Vasilevskiy is a guy who is going to go in every night, make some big saves for this team, and stand on his head when he has to. Vasy has been incredibly dialed in and risen to the occasion of No.1 since Ben Bishop was dealt. He’s a young goaltender, only 23, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win a Vezina in the next few years.

Everyone knew Vasilevskiy was the future of the franchise, but I don’t think anyone expected him to be lights out to start.

The guys on the blueline need to help him out a bit, the defense is a tad shaky and their goaltender has had to bail them out a little bit more than they’d like, but from top to bottom this roster has the makings of a Stanley Cup Championship.

As fun as it is to watch a McDavid and a Price, those players, as amazing as they are, do not make a team. They can certainly keep you in the discussion, you can’t dismiss the best players in the world and what they can do, but they can’t win Cups on their own. The amount of talent and depth in every corner of Tampa is just a recipe for success. Special teams could use some fine tuning, and it is still early in the season, but overall the way they are playing has fantasy players offer trades like candy, Tampa fans rejoicing, and visiting teams fretting.

No doubt all eyes are glued to this team right now and especially that top line. Oh, and Nikita Kucherov is going to have over a 50 goal season, 100 point season. Calling it now.

Hannah Spraker is the Anaheim Correspondent and a Columnist for The Fourth Period. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.




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