Some doubted his size, others his age. Some doubted he warranted the contract he earned with an MVP season in 2004 and whether he could live up to those numbers the contract dictated.
Martin St. Louis has been doubted his entire career - some will never learn.
St. Louis scored a goal Saturday night against one of the best goalies in hockey. It wasn't just any goal. His team, down 1 game to none in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, was getting outplayed by the New Jersey Devils. Out shot 18-4 in the waning moments of a second period that saw Tampa Bay fall behind 2-1, St. Louis was asked by Coach John Tortorella to double shift with Brad Richards and Jason Ward, as his linemates of the MVP line, Richard Award winner Vincent Lecavalier, and Vaclav Prospal (the V and the P of the line) headed to rest and sanctuary of the bench.
Ward forced a turnover, fed the puck to Richards, who found Marty St. Louis deep in Devils territory. Marty was parallel to the goal line - no shooting angle. No chance.
Martin St. Louis has heard that before.
"He's done that his entire career," teammate Tim Taylor told the St. Petersburg Times, "That was the hockey game. I know Vinny (Lecavalier) had the winner in the third period, but that was the hockey game. They had so much momentum, and that deflated them."
Indeed, St. Louis did what he does best. It was St. Louis who clinched the first Lightning playoffs series victory with an OT winner against the Washington Capitals in round one of 2003. It was Marty who performed the trick again in the first round of the cup run in 04 - eliminating the Islanders. It was the little engine that could in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals - and all of Canada poised to celebrate the country's first cup in a decade - that broke his fellow Canadian hearts with a double-ot winner in Calgary, forcing Game 7 and Tampa Bay history.
He did it again for Tampa Bay, finding a way to score an improbable goal when his team needed it the most. Tampa Bay was a punch drunk fighter, waiting for that finishing blow to go down. St. Louis was the uppercut you don't see - quick like a bolt from Zeus - smacking the champ square in the jaw and relieving the pressure.
John Tortorella said he did more than that. "It wasn't just the goal," Torts said to the Tampa Tribune, "It was how he was on the bench, what he was doing with the club. It was just his emotion, like he was trying to will the team to a win."
Sid The Kid or St. Louis' teammate Lecavalier may end up with the Hart Trophy, while St. Louis' doubters continue to defy logic. Doubt his size, his contract, and his age all you want - but never, ever doubt Martin St. Louis' heart.
Quotes from the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times were used for this blog