The Tampa Bay Lightning won’t look back at 2011-12 with a ton of fondness, but you can forgive Steven Stamkos for holding some nice memories. The elite sniper accomplished a rare feat on Saturday as he scored his 60th goal of the season.
As the NBC Sports Network gang points out, it only makes sense that Martin St. Louis collected a primary assist. The pint-sized winger’s precise passes have fueled many of Stamkos’ goals since he entered the league – particularly in the last three seasons.
Stamkos is just the second player (Alex Ovechkin did it in 2007-08) to score at least 60 since Jaromir Jagr reached the mark all the way back in 1995-96.
After being right around the net (but not even getting a point) for a Martin St. Louis goal earlier in the game, Steven Stamkos notched goal No. 59 in an otherwise meaningless Tampa Bay Lightning-Toronto Maple Leafs game. Toronto ended up winning 3-2 in OT.
Toronto held off Stamkos for the rest of the game, so it will all come down to scoring one goal against the Jets in Winnipeg on Saturday.
Collecting a goal-per-game is asking a lot, yet Stamkos seems suited to do it more than any player in the league at the moment – especially considering Alex Ovechkin’s recent struggles. Speaking of Ovechkin, Stamkos is hoping to join lofty company. If he reaches 60, he’ll be just the second player (Ovechkin did it in 2007-08) to score at least that many since Jaromir Jagr reached the mark all the way back in 1995-96.
On paper, playing the sad-sack Montreal Canadiens was a great chance for Steven Stamkos to bolster his chances to hit the 60-goal mark. Instead, he was held at 58 tallies as his four shots on goal failed to befuddle Peter Budaj.
Budaj generally had a light night of work, needing just 14 out of 16 saves to collect a 5-2 win. Still, the night won’t be all gravy for the mediocre backup, whose blunder of a pass set up an easy Vincent Lecavalier goal that will be blooper fodder for some time.
The Canadiens’ most productive combo instead highlighted the night, as both Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole collected two goals. That pushes Pacioretty to 32 and Cole to 34 in 2011-12, making them rare bright spots on what has mostly been a blight of a season.
Check out full highlights of the game below:
Stamkos’ road to 60
After giving himself a small cushion, Stamkos must score a goal per game in his final duo to hit 60. Here’s a look at those two remaining contests, including how many tallies he already has against each opponent:
Thursday: at Toronto Maple Leafs (one goal in three games)
Saturday: at Winnipeg Jets (three goals in five contests)
Theoretically speaking, the two teams are “vulnerable” enough that an empty-net goal or two isn’t out of the question. That being said, the Maple Leafs delighted in spoiling things for Buffalo earlier this week and the Jets are formidable at home.
Considering those factors and more, how do you feel about Stamkos’ chances of reaching 60? Let us know in the comments.
Poll: Tell us if Steven Stamkos will score 60 goals
Update: Stamkos made the job much easier by scoring a second goal on Tuesday, making it 55 and thus needing five for 60. There are still a few minutes left, too, so this post will be updated if he gets a hat trick.
NBC Sports Network provided a great infographic of how his goals have broken down so far this season, which I’ll update with Stamkos’ second tally.
Total Goals: 55 (first in NHL) Even strength: 43 (first in NHL) Overtime: 4 (first in NHL) GWG: 10 (tied for first) Goals in third period: 17
Fun-killing stats nerds would argue that some of that is circumstantial – when you score 55, plenty are going to be during big moments – but the part that impresses me the most is the 43 even-strength tallies. That shows that he isn’t just milking easy power play opportunities.
Those numbers also make you wonder what he’d do with a better team around him (although the counterpoint might be that he wouldn’t feel the need to do as much, at least theoretically).
Stamkos’ schedule for 60
Anyway, enough about what he’s already done. Let’s look at what lies ahead for Stamkos in his quest for 60 goals – keep in mind he’ll need to score six more in six games plus tonight’s remaining time. For fun, I’ve included a) how many goals Stamkos has scored against a given opponent in 2011-12 and b) how many goals that team has allowed going into Tuesday’s games.
Thursday: at New Jersey (two goals in three games; 200 Goals Allowed) Saturday: vs. Winnipeg (two goals in four games; 223 GA) April 2: vs. Washington (three goals in five games; 214 GA) April 4: at Montreal (two goals in three games; 211 GA) April 5: at Toronto (one goal in three games; 239 GA) April 7: at Winnipeg (two goals in four games; 223 GA)
As you can see, Stamkos has already scored at least once against the six remaining opponents. Four of the six final contests are against non-playoff teams, which could be good (if those teams are in low spirits) or bad (if those teams make stopping Stamkos their only real goal).
Asking for (almost) a goal-per-game is a tough task even for Stamkos – the NHL’s most prolific goal scorer during the last three seasons – but it’s not implausible looking at that reasonable schedule.
So with all that in mind, share your thoughts in the poll: can Stamkos reach 60 goals this season?