Guy Lafleur

Canadiens great Guy Lafleur has additional surgery

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens great Guy Lafleur had additional surgery, just two months removed from quadruple bypass heart surgery in late September.

The team disclosed the Nov. 28 procedure at the request of Lafleur’s family and said it removed a lobe on one of his lungs, as well lymph nodes. The statement said the operation was successful and Lafleur would return home in coming days to continue his recovery. The 68-year-old Lafleur had heart surgery Sept. 26.

Lafleur helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup five times. In 1,126 career NHL games from 1971 to 1991, the Hockey Hall of Famer had 1,353 points (560 goals and 793 assists) and became the first player in history to score at least 50 goals and 100 points in six consecutive seasons.

Appreciating Stamkos’ underrated career at 400 goals

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Calling Steven Stamkos “underrated” never really feels right, but you might argue that his greatness is “too easily forgotten.”

Maybe you can chalk it up to Alex Ovechkin‘s even-more-impressive goal-scoring pyrotechnics, or perhaps to some mid-career injuries that diluted some of his career peaks, but either way, Stamkos’ career achievements can sneak up on you.

Take scoring 400 goals, for example.

Stamkos hit that mark in his last game, and with Tuesday’s Lightning – Blues contest soon to air on NBCSN (livestream link), this seems like a great time to consider what we’ve seen from Stamkos, and what else we might see going forward.

Rare company

Stamkos didn’t just hit 400 goals in Tampa’s Nov. 16 loss to the Winnipeg Jets; he also did it before age 30 (he’ll turn 3-0 on Feb. 7). Less than 20 players have reached 400 goals before age 30.

He’s one of only nine active players to hit 400, and did so the second-quickest among those nine, managing the feat in just 763 games. (Alex Ovechkin is first, getting there, somehow, in just 634 GP). Stamkos is also only the 98th player to reach 400+ goals, period.

Stamkos’ .52 goals-per-game average places him at 16th all-time among players with at least 300 games played, by Hockey Reference’s measures. That average is higher than the likes of Guy Lafleur (.50) and Eric Lindros (.49).

With 786 points in those 763 games, Stamkos ranks ninth among active players, and his 1.03 ppg average fittingly ties him with teammate Nikita Kucherov for sixth-best among active players.

Stamkos is a two-time Maurice Richard Trophy winner, and became a rare 60-goal scorer in 2011-12. Pretty lofty stuff.

And, naturally, it’s not all in the past.

Stamkos comes into Thursday’s game on a tear, having generated a five-game point streak (two goals, six assists). He already has 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 17 games this season. The 2018-19 season ranks among his best, too, with 45 goals and a career-high 98 points.

[COVERAGE OF BLUES-LIGHTNING BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Passing fancy

It’s a bit absurd to ding Childhood Stamkos for not having much of a shot, but it’s kind of an adorable way to illustrate the point that the Lightning forward has grown his game over the years — which might come in handy if his shot becomes slightly less terrifying.

“When he was a kid, he couldn’t shoot,” his father, Chris Stamkos, told The Athletic’s Joe Smith (sub required) in a great story about Stamkos’ shot. “He could skate and pass, but he couldn’t shoot.”

Stamkos’ former partner-in-crime Martin St. Louis praised Stamkos to Smith, stating that Stamkos isn’t just a “one-trick pony.”

There was some concern that Stamkos’ shot might have been diminishing, but his 45 goals quieted a lot of worries. Normally a 19.2 shooting percentage would make you think fluke, but with a career average of 16.9, maybe he still has time as a an elite sniper?

Some of this comes down to the inevitable drive to create plays for Nikita Kucherov. Of course Stamkos will start to get his playmaking to sniping ratio closer to 1:1 when he’s paired with a winger who’s arguably already even more dangerous than him, right?

After all, his shot volume is still there.

Overall, his partnership with Kucherov should be heartening for the Lightning when it comes to Stamkos’ future. If Stamkos does indeed become less dangerous at sniping as he passes 30 — a common thing for mortal snipers, aka those not named Ovechkin — then he can conceivably tweak the dials to set up Kucherov more. He’s found quite the player to grow old with, as Kucherov and Stamkos even fit each other as left and right-handed shots respectively. It’s the ideal mix for one-timers, basically making them the hockey equivalent of a couple where one spouse prefers drumstick chicken wings while the other digs the flats.

Evolving game

Again, Stamkos has found ways to improve his overall game, which is promising if his scoring does drop off.

Amusingly, Stamkos noted how low his faceoff rating was when EA Sports named him the cover star for NHL ’12, and we’ve seen his acumen in that area rise — probably coincidentally. Stamkos’ early career faceoff percentage was just 46.4. Stamkos improved gradually over the years, and has really took off in that area since 2015-16, winning 53.7 percent of his draws. This season, Stamkos has won a whopping 60 percent.

While the impact of faceoff dominance can be overblown, the point is really that Stamkos continues to refine his game. He won’t be mistaken for a Selke frontrunner anytime soon, but by becoming more well-rounded, Stamkos faces a strong chance of mitigating the aging process by bringing more to the table than just scoring.

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So, yeah, it can be easy to forget how special Stamkos is. Maybe winning that elusive Stanley Cup might shine that spotlight on him a bit more?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Canadiens Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur has heart surgery

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery on Thursday, the NHL club has confirmed.

The Canadiens say the procedure took place at the Centre hospitalier de l’Universite de Montreal (CHUM).

”This procedure was necessary after a routine examination detected a cardiac issue,” the Canadiens said in a statement. ”The operation was successful, and doctors predict a full recovery after several months of convalescence. The family wishes to thank the entire medical team, as well as the personnel at the CHUM, and will not issue any further comment.”

The 68-year-old played in 1,126 NHL games from 1971 to 1991, finishing with 1,353 points (560 goals and 793 assists).

Lafleur spent the first 14 years with the Canadiens, followed by a three-year retirement. He then played with the New York Rangers for one season and the Quebec Nordiques for two.

Most of those three seasons were spent after he already was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.

Lafleur became the first player in NHL history to score at least 50 goals and 100 points in six consecutive seasons.

He holds the record for most points with the Canadiens and helped the club win the Stanley Cup five times.

Lafleur, honored one of the NHL’s top 100 players of all time in 2017 by the league, was the sixth Canadiens player to have his number (No. 10) retired.

Jean Beliveau is out of the hospital

We’re pleased to inform you that Hall of Famer and Montreal Canadiens’ legend Jean Beliveau has been released from Montreal General Hospital. He is now in a rehabilitation center after suffering a stroke last month.

“His condition is improving, it’s good news,” spokesman Donald Beauchamp said.

Beliveau helped the Canadiens win 10 Stanley Cups over the course of his playing career. He had 507 goals and 712 assists in 1,125 games and ranks second only to Guy Lafleur for points in a Canadiens’ uniform.

Jean Beliveau hospitalized after suffering stroke

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Montreal’s legendary gentleman and captain Jean Beliveau was hospitalized on Monday after suffering a stroke.

The Canadiens’ website shared the news of Beliveau’s breakdown in health and asked that his family have their privacy at this time. At 80-years-old Beliveau has had some health troubles in recent years yet remains the icon of hockey in Montreal.

Beliveau was captain of the Canadiens from 1961 until his retirement in 1971. When he left the game he was the Canadiens’ all-time points leader. Since then he’s only since been passed by Guy Lafleur. During his career with the Canadiens, Beliveau was a part of 10 Stanley Cup championship teams and served as the captain on five of them.