There was one overriding theme for Steven Stamkos during his pursuit of 60 goals: He would much rather his success had propelled the Lightning into the playoffs.
"You trade this stuff in a heartbeat for winning a championship," Stamkos said. "You don't play to score a certain amount of goals or to get individual awards. You play to win a league championship game."
That's a pretty level-headed statement for a 22-year-old. But Stamkos has a frame of reference from which to draw. He played last season into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final, the most fun he has had playing hockey, he said.
And he certainly has had teammate Marty St. Louis whispering in his ear about how nonplayoff seasons have made him appreciate so much more Tampa Bay's 2004 Stanley Cup run.
Stamkos still enjoys his accomplishments. His favorite word recently has been "surreal."
He used it when he became the seventh NHL player — with Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Joe Nieuwendyk, Pavel Bure and Alex Ovechkin — to have two 50-goal seasons before age 23.
He used it when Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman compared his playing style to Bossy's.
But Stamkos added this: "What gets you being mentioned with those players is also having a championship. That's when you know you have done a lot."
In the meantime:
Stamkos' 47 even-strength goals entered Saturday 10 more than any other player. His 36 goals at home by themselves would have tied him for ninth in the overall league race. His 12 winners led the league entering Saturday, and his 96 points were a career best.
"But the gold standard is a Stanley Cup championship," he said. "That's what you work hard to win. There are so many people who have played this game for so long and never gotten a chance. Obviously, you want to take that opportunity and cherish it, take nothing for granted. My goal is to win a championship. I haven't done that yet, and I'll keep working hard towards that."