Steven Stamkos isn’t shy when it comes to stating how much he appreciates the home crowd. Tampa Bay Lightning fans no doubt feel the same way about their alternate captain, which made his hat trick, plus assist, in Thursday night’s 7-2 win over the Florida Panthers incredibly fitting.
I won’t lie. After the first three games Stamkos just didn’t seem to have much luck scoring goals, leading some to believe it might just be one of those years. Because of his sheer talent, that usually points toward a goal total nearing 40. Good numbers, but likely not enough to beat out guys like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin among others.
His breakout performance in front of those very fans he enjoys interacting with could change the whole dynamic of things, however. You see, the Lightning have six games remaining in front of the home crowd before heading back out on the road, and if Thursday’s any indication Stamkos plans to take full advantage of playing in a building rocking from the opening faceoff to the final horn. By that, I mean he might just be getting started on the road to 50+ goals and hopefully another playoff appearance.
Even with all this hype surrounding his breakout performance, it’s important to note the improvement of Stamkos’ all-around game. Through the team’s first few games, he had an even plus-minus rating and was slowly getting better at taking and winning faceoffs.
Always looking to get better though, Stamkos exceeded those numbers in Thursday night’s contest. His plus-3 rating may have come courtesy of his offensive output and overall awareness, but then there’s the less flashy numbers. Four hits, many of which were big enough blows to knock the Panthers off the puck, and a faceoff winning percentage of 53.
Now, the question is can he keep this up throughout an entire 82 game season, or even the rest of this homestand. If so, Tampa Bay might find themselves right in the middle of the playoff race. And that would be more than welcomed by both Stamkos and the Lightning fan base he’s grown to love. Just look at Thursday night’s performance for proof.