New York Yankees slugger Reggie Jackson was once quoted as saying, “I’m the straw that stirs the drink” when referring to the Yankees teams of the mid to late 1970’s. It’s doubtful that the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos would ever say that about his play, so allow me to do so for him.
This season there is no doubt that Stamkos has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Lightning. His 58 goals represent more than 25 percent of the team’s total goals scored.
If you want to be even more impressed by Stamkos’ numbers, keep in mind that the second highest ranked player on the Lightning, Martin St. Louis, has scored just 24 goals.
On Thursday evening Stamkos will continue his effort to join the rarefied air of the 60-goal club, a feat that has not been accomplished since Alex Ovechkin scored 65 during the 2007-08 season.
Stamkos has two games left to score those two goals, with both games being played on the road. With that in mind, the pressure to deliver may be less than it would be with the home crowd anticipating it every time he steps on the ice. That’s not to say that the 22-year-old won’t feel any pressure on Thursday, playing a short distance from where he grew up when the Lightning face the Maple Leafs in Toronto.
The Lightning have played the Maple Leafs three times so far this season. In those three meetings Stamkos has scored one goal.
If Stamkos fails to reach the 60-goal milestone tonight, his final chance will come on Saturday night when the Lightning travel to Winnipeg to meet the Jets. The two clubs have met five times so far this season with Stamkos potting three goals (though with zero multiple-goal games).
True, the Lightning have been eliminated from playoff contention, but the quest for individual milestones is something that piques the interest of all NHL fans. It’s not an everyday occurrence that a player hits 60 goals in a season; in fact only 19 other players in NHL history have achieved that magic number.
With two games remaining, the spotlight will be on Stamkos to become No. 20.