Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Lightning needs even more out of Steven Stamkos

Lightning center Steven Stamkos is tripped up by Canadiens goalie Carey Price during the third period.


Lightning center Steven Stamkos is tripped up by Canadiens goalie Carey Price during the third period.


For months, he was the finest player in the NHL. He was young, and he was explosive, and in the world of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he was the guy who turned on the lights.

These days, there is one thing his team would ask of Steven Stamkos.

More, please.

For four months, he scored as if he was shooting into a soccer goal. He was fast, he was accurate, and if you were handing out MVP awards, his name was the one to put on the trophy.

These days, there is only one thing his fans would ask of Steven Stamkos.

Resume, won't you?

Suddenly, his stick is invisible, and his touch has betrayed him, and the posts no longer seem to love him. In the most important games of his career, Stamkos has entered his deepest funk. And all that rests on Stamkos becoming Stamkos again is, well, everything.

Everything, such as a scoring title.

Everything, such as an MVP award.

Everything, such as leading his team through the stretch run and into the playoffs.

For 11 games, including Saturday night's 4-2 loss to Montreal, it has been as if Stamkos has been skating uphill. He has only one goal, an alarming slump for a scorer so gifted. He has suffered from overthinking, and from undershooting, and between the two his game seems to be out of balance.

Granted, he is only a month past his 21st birthday, and granted, the goals get more precious down the stretch, and granted, he is in his first playoff run and granted, slumps happen to all scorers.

On the other hand, one of the truisms of hockey is that in the biggest games, a team needs its best players to be its best players. In other words, as soon as Stamkos can be special again is fine by the Lightning. By Stamkos, too.

"You want to be that player to help your team," Stamkos said Saturday. "You expect it out of yourself, and your teammates expect it out of you. You want to be counted on when things are on the line. It's something I take on myself to come out and help this team win. It isn't easy, but you want to be one of those players who can make a difference."

A month ago, Stamkos was the biggest difference-maker on the team, and there didn't seem to be a player in the league who could take the Hart Trophy (league MVP) out of his hands. Even with the slump, Stamkos' 41 still leads all goal-scorers by eight, and he's third in game-winning goals, and he has been largely responsible for the impressive turnaround of a franchise that suddenly matters again.

The most important stat with Stamkos, however, might be this one: When he scores a goal, the Lightning is 23-6-2. When he does not, the team is 13-15-5. Is there another player whose performance has that kind of impact on his team?

For Stamkos, the final stretch is a chance to close all MVP arguments (and, to be honest, there are those who argue that Marty St. Louis, Stamkos' teammate, deserves a spot in the conversation). The closer he can get to 50 goals, the harder it is going to be to argue for anyone else. And let's face it: The more MVP-type things that Stamkos can accomplish, the better it is for the Lightning.

Consider this: Back in 2003-04, when St. Louis won the Hart, he had seven goals in his final 17 games. Of course, St. Louis had some help. Vinny Lecavalier, Dave Andreychuk and Fredrik Modin all had seven, too. No one is suggesting that other players don't have to play well, too.

Mention how much the Lightning needs Stamkos down the stretch to coach Guy Boucher, and he shrugs. When hasn't the Lightning needed Stamkos? Mention the MVP award, and Boucher makes a face and says he really doesn't care.

"I'm trying to take pressure off of Stamkos, not add to it," Boucher says. "People want to talk about MVP, about scoring titles. I want him to strip that away and just get back to what he does."

Fair enough. But the pressure is the price of being a great player, and measuring up is the proof. Who else should the Lightning look to in its most important stretch in years?

Given what you can remember of Stamkos, back when he was Stamkos, who else would you ask to lead the way?

Tampa Bay Lightning needs even more out of Steven Stamkos 03/05/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 6, 2011 1:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Storm routs Cleveland


    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  2. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.
  3. Rowdies shut out Charleston


    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies know a thing or two about stalemates, with five of their past 10 games ending in a draw.

    Rowdies in the first half during the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Charleston Battery at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017.
  4. Rays journal: Former closer Sergio Romo acquired from Dodgers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays made a move to help the bullpen Saturday night when they acquired RHP Sergio Romo, who had been designated for assignment last week by the Dodgers.

    Reliever Sergio Romo has 84 career saves, including 38 in 2013, but has struggled this season with the Dodgers, posting a 6.12 ERA in 25 innings before being designated for assignment.
  5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. backs wife's "not worth risk'' opinion on Daytona

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Saturday defended his wife's Twitter post — and blamed himself for putting her in a position where she believed she had to speak out and upset some of his fans.

    Amy Earnhardt worries about Dale Jr.’s concussions.