Saturday, May 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning Steven Stamkos' hot streak highlights his growth as a player

Lightning center Steven Stamkos' hat trick stole the show in Saturday's 5-2 win over the Hurricanes. His special scoring ability is a reason he is one of the game's brightest young stars.

Stamkos is sizzling, having scored 10 goals in his past eight games to give him a league-leading 26. That puts him on pace for a second 50-goal season.

But it was Stamkos' relentless backchecking Saturday that coach Guy Boucher highlighted the most, saying it was a sign of how the center is growing into a complete player.

"He's just a jet out there," Boucher said. "You can see, 'You're not scoring on me.' It's inspiring."

As good as Stamkos was in his first three seasons, he said after signing a five-year, $37.5 million contract extension last summer he was determined to further develop his game in his fourth. And as the Lightning hits the midseason mark on a three-game road trip, which starts tonight in Stamkos' hometown, Toronto against the Maple Leafs, the 21-year-old is playing some of his best hockey.

"I find that he's made a difference just as much when he didn't have the puck as when he's had the puck," Boucher said. "And that's a mark of somebody who is becoming more of a winner than a star."

Stamkos has worked to improve his faceoffs; he has won 45.9 percent. He is becoming more aware in the defensive zone and welcoming opportunities on the penalty kill. Stamkos said the frustrating stretch to end last season — he scored seven goals in his final 32 regular-season games — taught him a lot.

"I want to be one of the top players in the game, and you have to look at those guys and how consistent they are," said Stamkos, named the NHL's star of the week for taking the goal-scoring lead with six goals in the Lightning's three straight wins.

"It's just focusing on the details. When things aren't going well, you tend to want to cheat to create offensive chances when it should be the other way around. When things aren't going well, you get back to playing solid defensive hockey, which leads to your chances."

Stamkos has found different ways to score as teams have adjusted to him. He hasn't had as many one-timers from the circle on the power play, and he has just five power-play goals, as opposed to his 51-goal season in 2009-10, when he had 24. Stamkos is driving to the net, scoring on deflections and rebounds.

When asked if it was too soon to call Stamkos a complete player, Boucher smiled, then lowered his voice as if his All-Star could hear him.

"We don't want to make a guy feel like he's there," Boucher said. "Oh, he's getting there, he's getting there."

MISCELLANY: Defenseman Victor Hedman (concussion) is not on the road trip.

Comments
Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegasí birth-to-best story?

Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegasí birth-to-best story?

What in the name of the 0-26 Bucs is going on here?The breathtaking Vegas Golden Knights are the greatest expansion team in professional sports history. They are the best (or worst) thing to ever happen to our games, having won 51 times during the re...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Steve Yzermanís summer plans: Make the Lightning better

Steve Yzermanís summer plans: Make the Lightning better

TAMPA — Captain Steven Stamkos said the Lightning's window for contending for a Stanley Cup championship is not closing."I think it's wide open," he said Thursday, one day after the Lightning lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final to the C...
Published: 05/25/18
When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

TAMPA — Disbelief will eventually give way to acceptance.The Lightning isn't there yet.It isn't there yet in a lot of ways.Will it ever be?Just wondering.Really, what guarantees are there?Late Wednesday, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechki...
Published: 05/24/18
Fight off the frustration, Lightning, and donít panic

Fight off the frustration, Lightning, and donít panic

TAMPA — Don't change a thing.Don't blow it up. Don't fire anyone. Don't overreact.Thursday was not an easy day in Lightning Land. It was the day after the end of a season that ended much too soon. It was a day when bags were packed, questions w...
Published: 05/24/18
Lightning journal: Ryan Callahan, among others, played hurt

Lightning journal: Ryan Callahan, among others, played hurt

TAMPA — Not surprisingly, several Lightning players went through the playoffs with what general manager Steve Yzerman called "significant injuries."He would not elaborate Thursday on who they were, though he said that information will be made p...
Published: 05/24/18
Lightning fans leaving Game 7 early: Understandable or bad form?

Lightning fans leaving Game 7 early: Understandable or bad form?

TAMPA — Lightning fans were heading for the exits with three minutes remaining in Tampa Bay's 4-0 loss to Washington Wednesday in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. Understandable given the disappointment of not reaching the Stanley C...
Published: 05/24/18
The single biggest reason Tampa Bay isnít headed to the Stanley Cup final

The single biggest reason Tampa Bay isnít headed to the Stanley Cup final

TAMPA — Washington is on to Vegas. The Lightning is not. So we asked the Times' Lightning coverage team for the single biggest reason Tampa Bay isn't headed to the Stanley Cup final. Here's their answers:Roger Mooney, staff writer: Th...
Published: 05/24/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Scoring drought brings Lightning season to a close

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Scoring drought brings Lightning season to a close

The Lightning will miss out on the Stanley Cup final after being shut out by the Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. The Bolts were the highest-scoring team during the regular season but failed to score in almost all of the final eigh...
Published: 05/24/18
Postgame reactions from Lightningís Game 7 loss to the Capitals

Postgame reactions from Lightningís Game 7 loss to the Capitals

The Lightning was shut out once in the first 97 games of the season, the playoffs included. Then it was shut out during the last two games of the Eastern Conference final, including 4-0 on Wednesday to the Capitals in Game 7.Here are some postgame re...
Published: 05/24/18
Lightning journal: A rare fight to this finish

Lightning journal: A rare fight to this finish

TAMPA — After Alex Ovechkin's goal 62 seconds into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Wednesday, the next highlight was an extended fight between Lightning D Braydon Coburn and Capitals RW Tom Wilson, with a two-minute break for them to spe...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18