Saturday, January 20, 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
Fennelly: Lightning needs a reset on the road … pronto

Fennelly: Lightning needs a reset on the road … pronto

TAMPA — Vegas has left the building.Wasn't the Lightning just arranging place settings for next weekend's NHL All-Star Game party?With that in mind, I headed to the home dressing room at Amalie Arena late Thursday after the Lightning was manhan...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Golden Knights move within one point of Lightning for top spot in NHL

Golden Knights move within one point of Lightning for top spot in NHL

SUNRISE — Aaron Ekblad scored 40 seconds into overtime to lift the Panthers to a 4-3 victory over the Golden Knights on Friday, spoiling Vegas coach Gerard Gallant’s return to Florida. By gaining a point, Vegas moved within one point of the Lightning...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Time for Lightning leaders to snap team out of funk

Time for Lightning leaders to snap team out of funk

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Steven Stamkos sat at his stall in a near-empty Lightning dressing room Thursday and did what captains often do:He shouldered some blame for the Lightning's listless 4-1 loss to Vegas."As a leader, I've got to be a lot better,...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Why I hate the NHL All-Star Game

Why I hate the NHL All-Star Game

TAMPA — The NHL All-Star Game is coming to town next weekend, reaffirming our community's ability to step into the breach when needed. We don't stop until we get the Winter Olympics. So, don't be surprised if those next Rays stadium plans ...
Published: 01/19/18
Steven Stamkos: ‘I have to be a lot better’

Steven Stamkos: ‘I have to be a lot better’

There was plenty of blame to go around after the Lightning's 4-1 loss to the Golden Knights Thursday night.This loss wasn't on one person, no question.But captain Steven Stamkos showed some leadership by shouldering some responsibility for the team's...
Published: 01/19/18
Lightning falls to Golden Knights

Lightning falls to Golden Knights

TAMPA — The door to the Lightning dressing room remained closed a little longer than usual Thursday night, and that wasn’t surprising. After the kind of performance displayed in its 4-1 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, this had team...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Lightning journal: Cory Conacher ready to take advantage of J.T. Brown’s departure

Lightning journal: Cory Conacher ready to take advantage of J.T. Brown’s departure

TAMPA — The loss of wing J.T. Brown to Anaheim will be a gain for some Lightning forwards in terms of ice time. Whether those players are currently with the team or still at AHL Syracuse has yet to be determined.For now, C Cory Conacher will try to t...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Thursday’s Lightning-Golden Knights game

Thought the bye week was a much-needed break for Andrei Vasilevskiy. And though you can’t pin Thursday’s loss on the goalie, he still gave up at least four goals for the fourth straight start (19 overall). Tampa Bay is used to Vasilevskiy’s brillianc...
Published: 01/18/18
Jonathan Marchessault on Lightning: ‘It started here’

Jonathan Marchessault on Lightning: ‘It started here’

Life is good for Jonathan Marchessault.The former Lightning forward is thriving for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, which recently signed the undrafted forward to a six-year, $30 million deal. Marchessault's wife is expecting their third child, a...
Published: 01/18/18
Lightning’s Cory Conacher hopes ‘simple’ leads to more ice time

Lightning’s Cory Conacher hopes ‘simple’ leads to more ice time

The loss of wing J.T. Brown to Anaheim will be a gain for some Lightning forwards in terms of ice time. Whether that player is currently with the team or still at AHL Syracuse has yet to be determined.Center Cory Conacher, a healthy scratch in the Li...
Published: 01/18/18