Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Stamkos is a Tampa Bay treasure

TAMPA — You do realize what we have here in Tampa Bay, right?

Perhaps it's because we see Steven Stamkos every game. Or maybe it's because he's such a humble kid. Or maybe it's because he doesn't pound his chest or talk in a loud voice.

Whatever the reason, we often forget — or, at the very least, take for granted — that right here on the Gulf Coast of Florida we have one of the planet's best hockey players.

There he was again Tuesday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, scoring the goal that put the Lightning up for good in a 4-2 victory over the Maple Leafs.

His shining star is not just because he has the ability to score 60 goals in a season. Although let's not kid ourselves, that has a lot to do with it. The list of guys who can do that is pretty short.

These days, however, there's more to it than lighting goal lamps. It's his maturity, his quiet leadership and, yes, even his defense. It's the little things. It's everything.

"I think Steven is doing it all," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said of Stamkos, who turned 23 on Feb. 7. "He wants to do it all."

He is. Check out what he is doing.

Become a dependable two-way player

"If I look at Steven (a couple of years ago), he was a dynamic offensive player who wanted to be good defensively," Boucher said. "Now he's a dynamic offensive player who is good defensively. That's all due to his work and attitude."

Stamkos is too good of an offensive player to be an elite defensive stopper, but he now realizes he can do something on the nights he doesn't score.

"It's finding a way to be a difference-maker when you're not getting the bounces offensively," Stamkos said. "That's part of being a professional player. You have to find a way to be a positive influence on the other players."

When one of the best players in the world is willing to roll up his sleeves and do some heavy lifting, other players follow.

"It's inspiring for the rest of the players," Boucher said. "And that is really a sign of maturity on his part. It's not just welcome. It's necessary."

Overcomes adversity

At the end of the 2010-11 season, Stamkos went through a horrible slump — well, horrible by his standards — when he scored only five goals over the final 28 games. While awful at the time, it might have been the best thing that happened to him.

"Adversity is a teacher," Boucher said. "At some point, it taught him that it's not about the goals. If you're not scoring, everything else matters even more."

That's why Stamkos didn't panic when he recently went through a five-game scoring drought.

"I do expect myself to produce, and my teammates expect (me to). And there probably is a correlation between our top guys not producing and our team not winning, (but) you still have to find a way to make a difference in a game," Stamkos said. "You have to realize that you can't start cheating. That's when things go from bad to worse and a snowball effect comes into play. I've learned from the past."

He has learned well. He followed the five-game slump with three goals over two games.

"It's his maturity that the five games didn't turn into 15," Bou­cher said.

Not just a one-shot pony

Not that long ago, Stamkos was a pretty goal scorer, a cutesy goal scorer. He scored on breakaways and dipsy-doodle moves and, of course, he had that vicious one-timer on the power play that seemed to account for 90 percent of his goals.

But now Stamkos scores as many ugly goals as anyone in the game. Take Tuesday, when he crammed in a loose puck from the crease for his team-high 10th goal. It might have been the least sexiest goal in the NHL on Tuesday night.

"He didn't become just a slave to his one-timer," teammate Marty St. Louis said. "He scores goals many different ways. You can't just rely on one thing because teams are going to take that away from you. You have to reinvent yourself, and Stammer has done that every year."

Final thought

Boucher points out that even the best players in the game have the puck on their stick for, maybe, 60 seconds a game. Stamkos already had those 60 seconds down pat. Now he's mastering the other 59 minutes.

"He understands that he does a lot with the puck but not at the expense of his play away from it," St. Louis said. "He has done a good job of that."

Yeah, just maybe better than anyone in the NHL. Stamkos reminded all of us in Tampa Bay again Tuesday night.

Tom Jones can be reached at [email protected] and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.

Comments
Lightning has goalie Peter Budaj’s back after near-collapse

Lightning has goalie Peter Budaj’s back after near-collapse

LAS VEGAS — After the Avalanche made a seemingly insurmountable Lightning lead shaky Saturday night, defenseman Victor Hedman was the first to skate toward backup goalie Peter Budaj and give an encouraging pat on the pads with his stick.Budaj’s stat ...
Published: 12/17/17

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Lightning-Avalanche

Could tell just how much Ryan Callahan meant in the Lightning dressing room by hearing teammates talk about his latest injury. Steven Stamkos said he was "sick to my stomach." Brayden Point called him a "heart and soul player." Teammates all saw how ...
Published: 12/16/17
Lightning journal: No easy answers on replacing injured Ryan Callahan

Lightning journal: No easy answers on replacing injured Ryan Callahan

The good news for the Lightning is that GM Steve Yzerman is hopeful RW Ryan Callahan will be ready to go in 3-4 weeks when his upper body injury is re-evaluated. The hard part, however, is finding someone to replace the veteran wing. "I don’t know if...
Published: 12/16/17
Lightning trying to replace ‘heart and soul’ Ryan Callahan

Lightning trying to replace ‘heart and soul’ Ryan Callahan

With veteran wing Ryan Callahan out at least 3-4 weeks with an upper body injury, the natural question is who will fill his shoes?"I don't know if anyone can," coach Jon Cooper said.That's not to say the Lightning (26-6-2) can't win without Callahan....
Published: 12/16/17
Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

DENVER — There might be one team in hockey hotter than the Lightning.It is Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse.The Crunch has won 10 straight after Friday’s victory over Providence. Why is this important? While the AHL is a developmental league, the ...
Published: 12/16/17
Ryan Callahan out at least 3-4 weeks for Lightning

Ryan Callahan out at least 3-4 weeks for Lightning

When Lightning wing Ryan Callahan took a nasty spill into the boards Thursday night, it didn't look good.Turns out, it wasn't. Callahan will be sidelined indefinitely with an upper body injury, evaluated after three to four weeks, per GM Steve Yzerma...
Published: 12/15/17
When you think you’ve got Brayden Point figured out, a surprise awaits

When you think you’ve got Brayden Point figured out, a surprise awaits

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Center Brayden Point is the Lightning’s calmest player, both on the ice and off, according to Victor Hedman.Point’s soft-spoken nature belies his baby face and 5-foot-10 frame. "I’ve never seen him angry before," Hedman said.That ma...
Published: 12/15/17
Ryan Callahan injury makes Lightning win ‘bittersweet’

Ryan Callahan injury makes Lightning win ‘bittersweet’

The Lightning's 4-1 victory over the Coyotes Thursday night still featured the usual post-game music in the dressing room.But there was more of a somber tone with veteran right wing Ryan Callahan's right arm in a sling. Callahan, who got hurt on a na...
Published: 12/15/17
Lightning routs Coyotes for sixth straight win

Lightning routs Coyotes for sixth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. — As much as the Lightning has been rolling, it remembered how it lost twice last season to the Coyotes.That included blowing a one-goal third-period lead at home down the stretch, with Tampa Bay missing the playoffs by a point."You l...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Lightning’s Mikhail Sergachev earns more minutes, praise

Lightning’s Mikhail Sergachev earns more minutes, praise

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Coyotes center Clayton Keller is very familiar with fellow rookie Mikhail Sergachev, the dynamic Lightning defenseman. They both were top 10 picks in 2016, Keller at No. 7 and Sergachev No. 9 to Montreal. They faced each other in th...
Published: 12/14/17