Nikita Kucherov skates towards you with a full steam head. what do you work?

I’ll tell you what ID Act. I would pee instantly and completely, roll into a little fetal ball on the ice, play dead, and hope for the best. It’s called opossum defense and I just invented it. (Okay, maybe Wade Raiden invented it late in his career, but I mastered it.)

But you’re not me. You’re Aaron Eckblad, the top two-man defending Florida Panthers, Norris’ marginal candidate, former first overall pick. You play hockey for a living, and you’re pretty good at it. You rarely urinate out of fear during a match. Even though you face the opponent’s best scoring streaks, you are rarely hit and never embarrassed. I got the old saw going about playing a curly hip, not the disc. (Thank you for subscribing to Defector, Aaron, by the by.)

Ah, but Nikita Kucherov is something else. He is an unrivaled skater, finishing second to Conor McDavid in the fastest skating competition. He is arrogant from another world. He’s a versatile scorer, comfortable in the hole or on the bottom, so you can’t predict where he’s going. He’s also totally happy with someone else’s setup. There’s no telling what he’s going to do, he’s got open ice, you don’t have help, and he’s squeezing you, Aaron, at about 25 mph. what do you work?

Well, you walk. Not perfect.

It was easy,” Lightning coach John Cooper said, after Kucherov stripped his Ekblad in a Power Play before finding Corey Perry for easy mode advice. “What we’ve always said about Coach is that he knows what the guy who’s going against him will do before they do. He made that play look easy.”

“This is a world play, a remarkable play,” said Berry. “Inside out on the D-man and the side door. I shake my head sometimes.”

The movement was very accurate: Kucherov seemed to be right and stood a little, as if he was going to cut the middle or let go of the disc. It did neither, committing outside the zeptosecond segment inside the Ekblad. Ekblad was probably thinking about what happened just 21 seconds ago, when Kucherov, one-on-one with MacKenzie Weegar, actually speeded up inside, forcing the flat-footed Weegar to tie him up and giving Tampa the man advantage.

Kucherov scored a goal of his own later, a powerful shot through traffic to give Lightning some insurance in what would ultimately be a 4-1 win in the first game. Kucherov will play a particularly pivotal role in this battle of Florida, especially if Brayden Point, who was injured in Game 7 against Toronto and whose comeback was unclear, is out for a while. So far, so good.

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