On a night his team desperately needed a victory, Steven Stamkos flew around the ice like he normally does. Speeding into the offensive zone and generating chance after chance for himself and his linemates, Stamkos has become one of the most deadly weapons in the NHL, all at the ripe age of 20 years old.
Stamkos scored two goals and added an assist in the Lightning's 6-2 thrashing of Atlanta Saturday night.
The goals brought his total to 40 on the season, and his power-play score (16th of the season) tied a team record. Stamkos also extended his point streak to 16 games, longest in NHL history for a player his age.
For a guy former coach Barry Melrose termed "not ready for the NHL," Stamkos has certainly taken the league by storm.
It took him quite a while to find his footing in his rookie season. Then-interim head coach Rick Tocchet scratched him from the lineup for several games for a "conditioning stint."
When Stamkos came back, he began to morph into the elite player he has since become. From the All-Star break last season, only Alexander Ovechkin has more goals than Stamkos.
One of the greatest players in NHL history, Mario Lemieux, was in attendance for Stamkos' latest display and, according to Tocchet, had a one-word description of his young forward: "Wow."
"He's a special guy," Tocchet told reporters about Stamkos. "The guy thrives with ice time."
While Sid the Kid is definitely a special player, think of this—it took him five seasons to break the 40-goal plateau. Stamkos did it in two.
Of course, Stamkos has a ways to go to prove the consistency of Alexander the Great and Sid the Kid.
Ovechkin opened his amazing NHL career with 52 goals and hasn't stopped yet, even getting up to an unreal 65 goals in 2007-08.
Stamkos is also not the assist man Crosby is yet. Crosby's put up 100 or more points in three of his five NHL seasons.
Still, both Ovechkin and Crosby are in their fifth seasons in the NHL, and Stamkos is skating with them. That's what is exciting about him. He's only scratched the surface of what he may become.
Bolts Injury Update
In the win over the Thrashers, team-leading point producer Martin St. Louis was sent forcefully into the wall and stayed down on the ice for quite a period of time.
The injury to St. Louis touched off a massive brawl that included even Stamkos, who isn't a fighter. Lightning winger Steve Downie was given a 10-minute misconduct after pummelling an Atlanta player.
Early indications are that St. Louis is OK and was just dazed from the impact, and that the team removed him from the rest of the game for precautionary reasons (plus the game was out of reach at that point).
The team will continue to closely monitor St. Louis for any concussion symptoms, but it is believed he will be available for the crucial game in Montreal.