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Steven Stamkos’ two-point-per-game streak is not new territory

But the way the Tampa Bay Lightning captain is doing it is different from the past.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Stamkos is off to a terrific start to the 2017-18 season with 18 points in the first nine games. The Tampa Bay Lightning captain isn’t in new territory for himself when it comes to putting up these kinds of points within a season—but he’s doing it in a much different way than he ever has before, via assists.

Before this season, Stamkos has had six nine-game spans where he scored two points per game or better. In those six sets of games, he had more assists than goals only once, and matched his goals and assists one other time. The other four times he had more goals than assists. Below is all such nine-game spans during the regular season he’s previously had.

Note: The game numbers below represent Stamkos’ games played. Game 50 means his 50th game of the season, but not necessarily the Lightning’s 50th game of the season if he missed any games with injury. Also, none of these spans bridge into the post-season or over into another season. They are completely contained within one regular season.

  • 2009-10 - Game 54-62 - 9 G, 9 A, 18 P, 2.0 PPG
  • 2009-10 - Game 56-64 - 11 G, 8 A, 19 P, 2.11 PPG
  • 2009-10 - Game 57-65 - 10 G, 8 A, 18 P, 2.0 PPG
  • 2009-10 - Game 58-66 - 10 G, 9 A, 19 P, 2.11 PPG
  • 2010-11 - Game 1-9 - 8 G, 10 A, 18 P, 2.0 PPG
  • 2011-12 - Game 57-65 - 10 G, 8 A, 18 P, 2.0 PPG
  • 2017-18 - Game 1-9 - 3 G, 15 A, 18 P, 2.0 PPG

As you can see, Stamkos mostly did it while approaching a goal per game. But his start to the 2017-18 season has been powered by assists. He’s taken his opportunities at even strength and on the power play to set up his teammates around him.

Stamkos is still a feared shooter and defenders have to respect that, which has opened up space for everyone else. With Nikita Kucherov so hot, it’s only a matter of time that teams shift and try to shut down Kucherov, which can only help to open up the ice further for Stamkos.

In Stamkos’ nine previous seasons in the NHL, he hasn’t had more goals than assists in three seasons: 2008-09 with 23 goals and 23 assists, 2010-11 when he had 45 goals and 46 assists, and 2016-17 when he had nine goals and 11 assists. Since the 2004-05 NHL lockout, Stamkos has been the NHL’s second best goal scorer.

Alex Ovechkin obviously holds the number one spot with his multitude of Rocket Richard trophies. But Stamkos has been right up there with him, and perhaps without the injuries he’s had that has robbed him of so much time in his prime, he’d have another Rocket on his mantle.

The next step is to see if Stamkos can continue this pace over the first ten games of the season. When looking at his performance over ten game stretches, he actually has even more spans at two points per game or better. Over ten-game spans, Stamkos has done that 14 times, and only four of them featured Stamkos scoring more assists than goals.

With missing so much time, it has looked like Stamkos is still trying to dial in the sights on his shot. When he does, I expect that goals will come in bunches, but for now, he’s been content to set up his teammates and collect his points that way.