Sunday, May 27, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning's game against Pittsburgh Penguins matches league's top two scorers in Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin

PITTSBURGH — So, how does it feel, Steven Stamkos was asked, to lead the league in scoring?

Not just for goals, but points, too.

"It doesn't feel like anything," the Lightning center said. "We still have lots of hockey left, and I'm trying to do everything I can to help us win."

Typical Stamkos, coach Guy Boucher said. "The biggest strength he's got is it's all about the team all the time, and it's genuine."

As much as Stamkos, 22, wants the focus on Tampa Bay's uphill quest to make the playoffs, his personal accomplishments and the circumstances surrounding today's game with the Penguins make it a lot about him.

Behind six goals and five assists in his past four games, Stamkos technically leads the league in points with 73. Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin also has 73, but because Stamkos' 43 goals lead second-place Malkin by a whopping 10, Stamkos gets the nod from the NHL.

It's kind of cool, then, the two go head-to-head today at the Consol Energy Center.

"I think that's the story," Stamkos said Friday. "It's going to be that way regardless of what I think. I don't think of it that way. … That's just brought up in the media."

Malkin did not talk to reporters, but Penguins coach Dan Bylsma agreed.

"I don't think at this point in time with 22 games left for us that we're looking at it as a showdown game or head-to-head game between two guys with high numbers," he said. "If there were just a few games left in the season, it might be more of a head-to-head matchup."

Either way, Stamkos has forced his way into any conversation about the game's best players.

He had been around the fringes but before this season was known primarily as a goal scorer. That characterization no longer fits, Boucher said, because Stamkos has become so much better defensively and is even getting some time here and there on the penalty kill.

He scores goals from close to the net rather than relying on his one-timer, his league-best 35 even-strength goals highlights that he fights for scoring space, and his 21:24 average ice time entered Friday fourth among league centers.

In the two games in which captain Vinny Lecavalier has missed with a fractured right hand, Stamkos has three goals and six points.

"He's got a lot of pressure," Boucher said. "But right now he's taken it to another level. He's not perfect every game, but if you would have asked me before the season how far I would have wanted him to go, he's surpassed that."

Boucher did not disagree that if the team makes the playoffs, Stamkos should be an MVP candidate.

"Under the circumstances, I would look at him," Boucher said. "But we're far from that."

Malkin, too, is an MVP candidate for the way he is carrying the Penguins without concussed superstar Sidney Crosby. In his past two games against the Lightning, he has five goals and seven points.

"He's a pretty rare combination of size and skill," Stamkos said. "He's one of the greatest players in the world, and it's going to be tough to try to contain him."

The Penguins could say the same about Stamkos.

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: 11 hours 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