Last year, Steven Stamkos became just the second player in 16 years to score 60 goals in a season.
This year, he already has seven goals through eight games and, as a result, has hockey fans buzzing about the possibility of 50 in 48.
“Yeah, it’s been brought up on Twitter every day,” Stamkos told the Tampa Tribune. “It’s obviously flattering, that people think that. I’m more of a realist. But you’ve got to set the bar high.
“I want to score every game, obviously. It’s something I know is probably not going to happen.”
At his current pace, Stamkos is projected to finish with 42 goals, which would be a wildly impressive total considering Peter Bondra captured the last 48-game season scoring race with 34 tallies.
The reason Stamkos’ run at 50 is getting so much buzz is twofold. One, he’s the NHL’s premier sniper — he finished first in goals last year and second in 2010-11.
Two, the “50 in 50” plateau has long been one of the league’s most illustrious marks.
It was first achieved by Maurice Richard during the 1944-45 season, then duplicated nearly 40 years later when Islanders forward Mike Bossy scored 50 in 50 during the 1980-81 campaign.
After Bossy, the mark started to fall like dominoes.
Wayne Gretzky scored 50 goals in 39 games (1981-82), 42 games (1983-34) and 49 games (1984-85), with 50 in 39 regarded as one of the most impressive feats in league history.
Mario Lemieux got in on the action during the 1988-89 season (50 in 46), followed by two years of Brett Hull’s sniping (50 in 49 during the 1990-91 season, 50 in 50 during 1991-92).
And then there are the unofficial 50 in 50 guys:
— Jari Kurri scored 50 in 50 games of the 1984-85 season, but it was Edmonton’s 53rd game of the year.
— Alex Mogilny scored 50 in 46 games in 1992-93, but it was Buffalo’s 53rd game. (Mogilny went on to score 76 in 77 that year.)
— Lemieux had two unofficial 50 in 50 seasons: 1992-93 (50 in 48, Pittsburgh’s 72nd game) and 1995-96 (50 in 50, Pittsburgh’s 59th.)
– Cam Neely scored 50 in 44 for Boston during the 1993-94 season, but it came in his team’s 66th game.
Stamkos said he’s honored to be mentioned in such company.
“For them to think that is obviously the ultimate compliment,” he explained. “To think I’m capable of that, that they expect that from me.”