Light­ning’s Stamkos wanted to be more than flash in pan

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY STEPHENWHYNO

There was a time when Steven Stamkos’ one­timer on the power play gave op­po­nents’ night­mares. Quick pass, quicker shot and the Tampa Bay Light­ning phe­nom cruised to a 51 goals in 2009-10 as a 20-year-old.

Nat­u­rally, de­fenses fig­ured out how to stop the No. 1 pick from the 2008 draft. But Stamkos is on the way to an­other 50-goal sea­son be­cause he has done what Washington Cap­i­tals star Alex Ovechkin hasn’t: rein­vent his game and dis­cover new ways to fill up the net.

“When you’ve played in the league for a while, peo­ple pick up on things, they pick up on where you score from, what you like to do when you’re in the of­fen­sive zone, so you have to make ad­just­ments and be able to adapt to your sur­round­ings,” Stamkos said. “It was some­thing that I wanted to ad­just. As you ma­ture through­out your ca­reer, you’ll al­ways keep find­ing new ways to get op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

For Stamkos, it has been scor­ing a plethora of even-strength goals as the power play is no longer the pri­mary source of his pro­duc­tion. En­ter­ing Thurs­day night’s game in Washington, 38 of his 48 goals this sea­son have come five-on-five.

As the Light­ning try to steal a play­off spot de­spite founder­ing for parts of the sea­son, one of Stamkos’ part­ners in crime is not the least bit sur­prised by the 22-year-old’s tor­rid scor­ing pace, nor his abil­ity to adapt.

“I feel in this league you have to rein­vent your­self all the time,” Light­ning right wing Martin St. Louis said. “If you score a lot of goals from one spot, you take it away. You al­ways have to find a way to rein­vent your­self. He’s done that.”

That’s one of the top crit­i­cisms of Ovechkin, as play­ers around the NHL have noted his patented curl-and-drag move and re­peat­edly snuffed it out.

Ovechkin, 26, has scored at least 50 goals four times but dropped to 32 last sea­son and is on pace for the same num­ber this time around.

Mean­while, Stamkos could earn Hart Tro­phy con­sid­er­a­tion if the Light­ning make the play­offs, as it’s hard to ar­gue any other player per­haps out­side of Pitts­burgh’s Ev­geni Malkin has been more valu­able to his team’s suc­cess.

Coach Guy Boucher praised his young star for his will­ing­ness to buy in to chang­ing up his game. “He’s worked hard, is very re­cep­tive,” Boucher said. “He’s taken this quest of be­com­ing a com­plete player and a win­ner very, very se­ri­ously, and that’s why he’s ben­e­fit­ing from scor­ing from all an­gles, all kinds of sit­u­a­tions: whether it’s a break­away, twoon-one, wrap­around, screen, tip, jam. He does it all.”

Teammates like St. Louis don’t mar­vel at it any­more.

“It’s noth­ing new for us,” the for­mer MVP quipped. But play­ers such as Cap­i­tals de­fense­man Karl Alzner watch Stamkos score game-win­ners (he has an Nhl-best 10) and re­call that Ovechkin has shown flashes of that.

“That’s what those play­ers do,” Alzner said. “It’s like when you’re play­ing video games. They’re the ‘game break­ers’ on the video game. That’s why they get that tag is be­cause they can go out there and when you’re against the wall they do it.”

Stamkos has done all this with St. Louis and Teddy Pur­cell. Tampa Bay cap­tain Vinny Le­cav­a­lier (bro­ken hand) re­mains out and af­ter the Light­ning traded for­wards Do­minic Moore and Steve Downie and de­fense­man Pavel Ku­bina.

That’s a lot of pres­sure for a guy who just signed a five-year, $37.5 mil­lion con­tract last off­sea­son and is earn­ing ev­ery dol­lar by car­ry­ing his team.

“I put that pres­sure on my­self re­gard­less of who is in the lineup. Ob­vi­ously, it’s mag­ni­fied now with the trades that we made and with Vinny out . . . But for right now for Teddy, Marty and I, we re­al­ize that we need to score goals to help our team win, and we like that pres­sure.” Penalty killers have taken away Steven Stamkos’ back-door one­timer on the power play, but he hasn’t slowed down.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.