TAMPA — Steven Stamkos is the Lightning. Even as other players have risen to star, and even superstar, status, he remains the face of the franchise.
He was the microcosm of the team as a whole this season: incredible regular-season and fell off sharply in the postseason.
In the organization’s best regular season, Stamkos set the franchise record for career goals. Then he was essentially a no-show until the final game of the first-round sweep.
Stamkos, known for his shot, brought out his playmaking side over the last couple of years. This year, he pulled those both together.
Last season, Stamkos put up a career-low goals (only 27 in 78 games) and a high in assists (59). He returned to his previous standard with 45 goals this season but maintained the assists as well at 53.
That combination put Stamkos at a career-high 98 points this season. Perhaps more telling for a player with only one other 82-game season in his last six, Stamkos also scored at career-high rate of 1.19 per game.
Stamkos shone on the power play, but still scored more even-strength goals. Finally, his health wasn’t a question. It didn’t have the flash of the 60-goal, or even the 50-goal seasons early in his career, but this was the best Stamkos had looked in a while.
Until the playoffs.
After not scoring in the first two games, Stamkos stood up and said all the right things about how everyone needed to be better. After the third loss, he said he takes pride in his ability to have an impact and “it’s not fun,” when that doesn’t happen. He wanted to spark something in that Game 4.
He did finally get on the board with a goal and an assist, but that wasn’t enough to spark anything.
That’s not to say the loss falls on Stamkos alone; most of the team didn’t show up in the series either. But this is a recurring issue for the captain, a goal-scorer who can’t score when it matters most.
He called the season a failure, no matter the regular-season achievements, immediately following Game 4. The Lightning didn’t achieve its ultimate goal.
What does that say about himself and his own legacy? Stamkos is universally respected, considered one of the best goal-scorers in the league, but the Stanley Cup has remained elusive. Even more so, Stamkos has struggled in deciding games.
Steven Stamkos’ season
High: Stamkos broke the Lightning’s career goals record with his 384th with a tip in the slot against Arizona on March 18.
Low: Stamkos stumbled on his way to that record, with only one goal in 10 games on his way to tying Vinny Lecavalier against Detroit on March 14.
By the numbers
19 power-play goals, second only to Brayden Point in the league, were the second-most of his career.
98 points in the regular-season is a new career high for Stamkos
2 points in the playoffs is a new career low when playing more than a single game.