During last year's playoffs, the NHL ran an ad campaign that featured the phrase "History Will Be Made." It sure was as there were many memorable stories in the playoffs including the Flyers' comeback against Boston after being down 3-0 (twice) and the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 49 years. They should have kept that slogan for this season as well, at the very least just for Steven Stamkos. With his hat-trick against the Flyers in a wild game on Thursday, Stamkos now has 19 goals in 19 games to start the season. If he is able to keep up this pace, Stamkos will join the exclusive 50 in 50 club, a group whose emebers include Maurice "Rocket" Richard, Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull, and well...thats it. From what I hear, those guys were pretty good at hockey so thats not a bad group to join. It's still early in the season, but since the halfway mark of his rookie season, Stamkos has been the best goal scorer in the league.
This is the second best start to a season since the lockout. Even Alex Ovechkin hasn't scored this many goals through 19 games; the most he has had was 17 last year when he finished with 50 goals. When he scored 65 in 2007-08, he only had 13 through the first 19. The best start so far has been Simon Gagne in 2005-06 when he scored 20 goals in the first 19 games, though a large part of that was the play of Peter Forsberg (remember him?) who had 30 assists in the first 19 games. Gagne would finish the season with 47 goals in 72 games.
The last two seasons, Martin St-Louis has played the Forsberg to Stamkos's Gagne as evidenced by his career high 65 assists last season and career pace of 18 in 19 games, a pace of 78 over a full season. Since the 2002-03 season, St. Louis has been by far the most consistent and important member of the Lightning. Its no coincidence whenever a player in Tampa Bay has a career, they see the tenacious winger on their right side the majority of the time. When Lecavalier won the Richard Trophy with 52 goals, St. Louis was right there with him the whole season, adding a then career high of 59 assists. St. Louis is a very crafty player with a strong chemistry with Stamkos and should be able to consistently set him up.
Stamkos has a lot more going for him than just a great linemate. His shot is easily one of the best in the league. Having already proven his one-timer from the left circle is money (seriously, how do teams keep letting him get open?) he has shown to be as accurate as anybody. He can put the puck where ever he wants from where ever he is on the ice, even from his butt. He is also durable having only missed three game thus far in his career and those were due to being healthy scratch by Coach Melrose. He is a strong skater and while he is always in the play, does not play with the kamikaze style of an Ovechkin or, to a lesser extent, a Crosby. There's no telling what may happen over the course of the next 31 games. He has quite a pace to maintain, one the NHL hasn't seen since 1991-92 when Brett Hull did it. Fortunately, Stamkos is smart as well as skilled and should be able to find new ways to score on the off chance teams remember to pay attention when he drifts towards the stick-side faceoff circle on the power-play. As was proved last Spring, it is really exciting to watching long-standing barriers and records broken or matched. On January 23, the Thrashers visit the Lightning, tune in to see if Stamkos pumps his fists for the 50th time this season.