How Steven Stamkos snapped his 10-game goal drought
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos accepted a Victor Hedman pass near the Washington blue line during Friday's second period, took a couple strides and let it rip.
Boy, did he. Stamkos' wicked wrist shot from between the circles, which split two Capitals defenders and beat Braden Holtby, snapped a 10-game goal-drought, his longest since going 11 in his rookie season in 2008. It was Stamkos' first goal since tallying two Nov. 21 against Anaheim, though it came in a 5-3 loss to Washington.
"Just have that mentality, 'Want the puck, skate with the puck and shoot the puck,'" Stamkos said. "It definitely felt good tonight. Obviously I wish I could have done more to help our team win, because that's really what it's all about."
It was vintage Stamkos, who finally looked like his old self, a two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the league's top goal scorer. Stamkos was aggressive, skating and shooting with confidence, 13 total shot attempts (five on goal) after just eight on goal in the previous seven games.
Getting Stamkos, who has a team-high matching 12 goals, on track could be a huge boost for the Lightning (16-14-3), which managed to go 8-4 despite just two goals from him in that period.
"When you go through a stretch like this, you forget to have fun out there," Stamkos said. "For me, when I'm having fun, I'm playing with confidence, I'm skating and shooting the puck. For whatever reason, I got away from that in that stretch. (Friday) was a night where I had that mentality."
Of all the issues that led to Stamkos' slump - injuries to playmaking teammates, constantly shuffling linemates, contract saga becoming a distraction - a key one was his lack of shots. He's averaged more than three shots a game each year, never below 3.27. But this year, he entered Friday at 2.38, his 76 shots ranking 83rd in the league. He's on pace for just 28 goals, which would be his fewest than getting 23 as an 18-year-old rookie.
"Sometimes when you're not scoring, all of a sudden, it maybe gets into your head that, 'This may not go in for me, I'm going to pass this,'" Cooper said. "For us, we've got to keep reminding Steven that he's a shooter. When you're in those situations, when it's just becoming natural, it's on and off your stick, you've got that good vibe going, the puck seems to be getting through, they seem to be not getting blocked. But when they're not, you seem to hold onto it that extra fraction of a second because you want to get that extra 'umph into the shot, and it gets blocked.
"Those are the little things you notice, you have to keep on showing him tape and put him in situations where. If you have one shot in a game and you don't score, well that's one thing. But if you have six shots in a game and don't score, you're putting yourself in really good situations and eventually they're going to go in. So one thing about Stammer is saying, 'Keep shooting kid, just keep shooting. That's how he'll work his way out of this."
And that's how Stamkos did just that Friday.
"Just look at the kid's shooting percentage - it's 18-20 percent," Cooper said. "Shoot five pucks on net a night and one goes in. He had really good jump tonight, that was great to see."