When Steven Stamkos rips his one-timer from the half boards, fans cheer; the puck is travelling so quickly that is always has a chance to score. Since his NHL career started, Stamkos has been labeled a bit of a one dimensional player by some. Well, this season, Stamkos is turning himself into an even strength force.
Consider last season when 17 of Stamkos’ 45 goals were scored on the power play. That’s 38% of every goal he scored. This season, only 2 of his 15 goals have been scored with the man advantage, in percentage terms that’s 13%. So what is to be attributed to this great swing?
For starters, Tampa’s power play hasn’t been great this year. At the time of writing this, the Lightning have the 19th best power play in the league. This roster is better than that number indicates, but, I digress. Despite the power play’s troubles, Stamkos still sits second in the league in goals behind the red hot Phil Kessel.
Let’s take a look at Stamkos’ goal against the Minnesota Wild last game. Even though the team lost the game, it’s a fair example to see the evolution of Stamkos. I’ve heard so many people say that he can’t score even strength and that he is really one dimensional and such and such. Take a look at that goal and tell me that it wasn’t an impressive even strength goal. That shot off the rush is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous than his one timer on the half boards. More than that, he was on his off wing and still managed to fool one of the hottest goalies in the league.
Not only is has his even strength play been effective this year, but his defensive awareness. Because of all his even strength goals, it’s not a surprise that he leads the team in +/-. That being said, this stat speaks of a defensive awareness in Stamkos that is nice to see.
As he continues to mature, Stamkos will turn into one of the more dominant forwards in the league. He has all the talent in the world, enough size and the hockey sense to be a great player in this league for a long time. His signing of a new contract this past summer is going to allow us fans to enjoy his development. People tend to forget how young he is just because of all his success. Well, we aren’t even close to his “prime”. When we get there, this kid is going to be exciting to watch.
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