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Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos achieves his aim with accurate shooting

ATLANTA — It was just as well the puck found its way back to Steven Stamkos after his blazing shot clanked off the post Sunday against the Capitals.

There was no time to fret missing a chance to tie the score because he immediately got another.

"I might have tried to shoot it a little harder," the Lightning center said.

But not blindly.

"The most important thing," he said, "is to hit the net."

Stamkos picked a top, inside corner, right where he aimed; another display of one of the league's most devastating shots, a one-time slap shot from the left faceoff circle that consistently finds the short side between goaltender and post.

"He has one of the best shots in the league from that position," coach Rick Tocchet said.

It is a main reason Stamkos has a team-best 29 goals and entered Monday tied for the league lead with 12 on the power play.

The shot also is one of the best ways to measure how far Stamkos, 2008's No. 1 overall draft pick, has come in confidence and production.

In the 87 games since Jan. 29, 2009, when he was benched for a third and final time as part of last season's program to make him a smarter and stronger player, Stamkos has 83 points on 46 goals and 37 assists.

Compare that with six goals and 13 assists in 46 games prior, during which he admitted thinking, "My shot's not as good. My hands aren't as good," and that he might be better off back in juniors.

Now, with 102 career points (52 goals, 50 assists), Stamkos is one of just three active players — the others are Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk — to reach 100 before age 20, which Stamkos reached Sunday.

His 52 goals before age 20 are fourth among active players behind Crosby (75), Kovalchuk (67), whom the Lightning will see tonight at Philips Arena, and Columbus' Rick Nash (58).

"It's all about the timing and your hips, and it's all about where your stick blade hits the ice in reference to the puck," Stamkos said of his one-timer. "It's about getting the torque of your stick."

Stamkos said he began working on his shot when he was 9 or 10, when his father took him to a shooting school. It was two or three times a week, shooting off a synthetic ice surface.

His greatest refinement since: learning that short-side shots are better than those on the far side.

"It's tough for the goalie because he's sliding over, so that short side is going to be open," Stamkos said. "It's tough to shoot to the far side on an angle like that. You might hit traffic in front of the net or you might hit the goalie as he's coming across."

While Stamkos said he is successful because of setup passes from defenseman Kurtis Foster and fellow forwards Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier — "the most important thing is getting it right in your wheelhouse so you don't have to worry about adjusting" — Foster said credit goes the other way.

"He's not just dropping his head and shooting as hard as he can. He's picking the left side of the net because he knows that's where he has to put it. It's amazing. He's got to position himself in the right spot, take the pass and put it where he wants to."

Usually on his first try, but sometimes, like against the Capitals, on his second.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos achieves his aim with accurate shooting 02/01/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 1, 2010 11:21pm]
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