In 1995-96, Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr had 69 and 62 goals, respectively. In 2007-08, Alex Ovechkin scored 65 goals, and he remains the only person to hit the 60-goal mark since the Penguins' duo of the 90s.
The only person to even come close since then is Pavel Bure, who put up 58- and 59-goal seasons in back-to-back years with the Panthers near the turn of the century.
Well, all that is about to change, because this year, Steven Stamkos will hit the mark.
Stamkos leads the NHL with 40 goals, and he's played in all 58 of his team's games.
In 2010, when Stamkos had a 51-goal season, he scored 22 goals in 28 games from February on. The year before that, he scored 17 goals after February began. What I'm saying is, he likes to heat up near the end of the season.
This year, in nine February games, Stamkos has seven goals. While 20 goals in the remaining 24 games is no small task, it's possible.
Lately, the Lightning have been dumping players. They traded Dominic Moore for a pick and Pavel Kubina for picks and a prospect. Today, they dumped Steve Downie, and after flipping the player they acquired (Kyle Quincey), once again got no roster-ready players in return (via The Star).
It's clear that the Lightning are sellers, and that they're slowly accepting they won't be making the postseason. However, that's a position Stamkos has been in before, and he's thrived under the circumstances.
- Stamkos has eight more goals than anyone else in the league.
- Stamkos is ranked 10th in the NHL in shots—an impressive statistic in itself—considering how many more goals he has than the other shooters.
- Of the top 100 shooters in the NHL this season, Stamkos has by far the highest shooting percentage, at 19.5 percent. The only player to even come close is Scott Hartnell, who's shooting 17 percent with more than 40 fewer shots.
- Of his 40 goals, 34 of them have come at even-strength. Tampa is currently second-to-last in the league on the power play, and that makes sense: In the past two seasons, Stamkos has had 17 and 24 power-play goals, respectively. His insane accuracy—combined with the power he can put on a slap or wrist shot—makes him one of the most dangerous players in the game man-up, and his stats don't reflect that at all.
- Stamkos is 16th among forwards in PP time per game. A large part of that is that the Lightning have had the fourth-least power-play opportunities.
With the Lightning growing weaker by the day, more pressure will be put on Stamkos, and he's capable of carrying the brunt of that load. Despite the news that Vinny Lecavalier will miss an indefinite amount of time (via NHL.com) he still has Martin St. Louis—the team's leading assist man—to help him out.
Given his immense skill, his consistency and his tendency to heat up as the season moves forward, it's not unreasonable to think that Stamkos could reach the impressive goal plateau.
A note: Since the writing of this article, Stamkos has scored his 41st and 42nd goals, the first of which was on the power play. See? He's already 10 percent there.