Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Steven Stamkos Takes Pursuit of 60 Goals to Season Finale in Winnipeg: Stamkos Heads to Winnipeg Chasing No. 60

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Steven Stamkos Takes Pursuit of 60 Goals to Season Finale in Winnipeg: Stamkos Heads to Winnipeg Chasing No. 60

Article excerpt

The NHL's 60-goal club includes Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull and seven other members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Steven Stamkos is tantalizingly close to becoming the newest member. The Tampa Bay Lightning star needs to score one more goal in the season finale at MTS Centre in Winnipeg on Saturday night to put his name in the history books.

There have been just 38 seasons of 60 goals or more in the NHL by a total of 19 players -- almost all of them during the league's offensive explosion in the 1980's and early 90's -- and Stamkos is vying to join Alex Ovechkin as the only ones to accomplish the feat since 1996.

"It's a tribute to his willingness to focus on the small details and paying the price," said Lightning coach Guy Boucher. "Because that's what it is, really: If you want to score goals you've got to go to the front of the net and you've got to go around it."

The pursuit of 60 has been tracked closely, particularly with the Lightning having been eliminated from playoff contention before heading on the road for three games in Canadian cities to close out the schedule.

It's no coincidence that Stamkos took his game to another level this year. His biggest weapon the last couple seasons was a one-timer that proved to be downright lethal on the power play -- at least until opponents started keying in on it and finding ways to take it away.

That forced Stamkos to start going to harder areas on the ice and made him a much more effective player. The result? Stamkos has scored 47 of 59 goals while the Lightning were at even strength this season, the highest total by any NHL player since 1993.

"I think Steven has really developed his even strength game," said Boucher. "It's not even comparable to the beginning of last year."

From a goal-scoring standpoint, the season is Ruthian in nature. Only three other NHL players have even hit 40 goals as scoring around the league continues to decline.

As recently as the all-star game in late January, there would have been few who believed the plateau was within reach. Since then, Stamkos has scored 27 times in 33 games and heads into the finale in Winnipeg with good vibes, having scored in both previous visits to MTS Centre this season. …

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