Surprisingly, the Tampa Bay Lightning are within striking distance of a playoff spot. If you want to know how that’s possible, look no further than Steven Stamkos.
Coming off of a record-setting 60 goal campaign, many predicted the Lightning would be legitimate Stanley Cup contenders this season. While that looks very unlikely with only a month remaining, Stamkos is not entirely to blame, as his 23 goals and 43 points have given the team a chance to win practically every night.
Stamkos entered 2013 fresh off his best professional season in 2011-2012, earning a second Rocket Richard trophy with 60 goals and was also named one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy. That’s a wonderful season regardless of your teams issues (and for the Lightning, there were plenty).
But, heading into Jon Cooper‘s first game as head coach Friday, the Lightning find themselves just six points out of eighth in the Eastern Conference. Though it probably won’t happen, there’s still a chance. For that, they can thank Stamkos.
Carrying over his success from last season, Stamkos’ current point total (43) ranks third among NHL players. He’s leading one of hockey’s most dynamic duos, with Martin St. Louis and rookie Alex Killorn putting up decent numbers alongside him.
It’s not a stretch to say that Stamkos is a Hart Trophy candidate. His numbers prove that much, and he’s definitely a vital part of the Lightning’s success. The award has pretty much been gift-wrapped to Sidney Crosby at this point, but don’t be surprised to see Stamkos grab it if Tampa Bay finds themselves in the postseason come next month.