Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Six

Can Stamkos score 50 in 48?

20 Comments

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.”

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Brian Boyle #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final with a score of 5 to 2 during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
Getty
11 Comments

The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

***

Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

4 Comments

With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.

Video: Phil Kessel displays incredible hand-eye coordination on goal

1 Comment

This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.

The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.

(Watch that goal in the video above.)

It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.

Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.

Update: Here’s the goal Kessel accidentally “scored” for the Lightning:

Ouch.