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 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.



at Maple Leafs

When/where: 7; Air Canada Centre, Toronto

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 970-AM

Key stats: Expect Lightning G Mathieu Garon, who has won three consecutive starts, to start. … C Nate Thompson (lower body), who has missed five games, could return. … Toronto had the third-best power play in the league entering Monday (20.3 percent) and the worst penalty kill (72.3 percent). … Tampa Bay is 5-0-2 in Toronto since losing Dec. 10, 2007.

Tampa Bay Lightning Steven Stamkos' hot streak highlights his growth as a player 01/02/12 [Last modified: Monday, January 2, 2012 9:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. ‘Biggest fight' behind her, Petra Kvitova returns ahead of schedule


    PARIS — Five months after a home invader's knife sliced into her left hand, Petra Kvitova will return to competitive tennis at the French Open, a last-minute decision to make her comeback earlier than expected.

    Petra Kvitova adjusts her hair during a news conference at Roland Garros Stadium, where she will make her tennis return at the French Open. Kvitova's left hand was badly injured by a knife-wielding intruder in December; she has recovered ahead of schedule. [Associated Press]
  2. Video: Rays Souza on that oh-so-bad dive, and reaction from Twins fans


    What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking when he made that oh-so-bad dive for a ball in the seventh inning Friday? Well, we'll let him tell you ...

  3. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?


    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  4. Rays at Twins, 2:10 p.m. Saturday, Minneapolis

    The Heater

    Today: at Twins

    2:10, Target Field, Minneapolis

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun, 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

  5. State baseball: Unbeaten Calvary Christian makes it 29 straight wins, reaches final


    FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian is one game from season-long perfection. And its first state championship.

     Calvary Christian players celebrate their win after the FHSAA class 4A semi-final against American Heritage on Friday May 26, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary defeated American Heritage 7 to 1. Calvary takes on Pensacola Catholic in the championship tomorrow night, at Hammond Stadium.