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91 Days of Stamkos: Day 41, A broken nose won’t keep him down

In the biggest game of his early career, Steven Stamkos goes full Kris Russell with his face.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins - Game Seven Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It’s safe to say that TD Garden Arena in Boston isn’t one of Steven Stamkos’ favorite places to play. Despite scoring 11 goals in 17 career regular season games I’m sure he wouldn’t mind seeing it burned to the ground. Not only is it the site of his horrific broken leg, it’s also the building that turned his beautiful, beautiful face into an Owen Wilson mask.

Five minutes into the second period of Game 7 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, Stamkos straightens up to try and block a slapshot from the point by Johnny Boychuk. While Boychuk is no Al Iafrate (look him up kids, he had a mullet, rode a Harley and blasted the puck with great velocity). Stamkos’ supposed friend, Marty St. Louis, puts his stick out and manages to deflect the puck just enough so that, instead of hitting Stamkos in some place that had padding, it hit him under the visor and square in the nose.

No coach wants to see his 21-year-old superstar sniper take one off the beak, but hockey players are interesting lot. Stamkos probably didn’t even think twice about putting himself in a position to block the shot. After all, it was the seventh game of his first Eastern Conference Finals. Blocking the shot or letting it go by could literally be the difference in the game.

The same goes for St. Louis and his deflection. He was just trying to do what he could to help his goaltender, Dwayne Roloson, who had already stopped 17 shots at that point in the game. His stick just happened to be at just the right angle to ramp the puck up from a few inches off the ice to roughly six feet off the ground and right into Stamkos’ face.

The shot sent equipment flying a la Charlie Brown, and Stamkos immediately crumpled to the ice. He got up and skated by himself to the bench to “get some work done,” flinging his helmet off on the way. Down into the tunnel and locker room he went to see what the trainers could do to get him back on the ice. Not only was he hurt and leaking blood, it’s apparent that he was not happy about it.

As unlucky as the deflection was, there was a small silver lining. Stamkos wore a visor. While it didn’t completely stop the puck, it did absorb a little of the energy and help prevent even more damage.

Despite getting cracked directly in the face with a piece of frozen rubber, Stamkos missed all of about six minutes (insert hockey players are tough meme here). He returned to the ice with a nasty cut and a full cage on his face. If we know anything about Stamkos, that time between shifts was the longest time in his life up to that point. Having been the engine to the Lightning’s offense that season, he knew how desperately they needed him in a 0-0 game that would determine who played for the Stanley Cup.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins - Game Seven Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

“It was definitely was going to be a game I didn’t want to miss. That was the biggest game of my career,” he told Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog, “It was a pretty easy decision [to return to the game].”

Even with missing the five minutes he still ended up with 18:57 of ice time and one shot on net. To add insult to injury, he was on the ice when Nathan Horton scored the only goal of the game with 7:33 left to play. In fact the pass went between Stamkos and Eric Brewer before finding Horton for the tap-in goal.

When asked about being on the ice for the game winner, Stamkos’ response was succinct, “It sucked.”

It turns out that the broken nose wasn’t the only injury Stamkos was also dealing with during the finals. He had suffered a minor shoulder injury during the opening series against Pittsburgh.

At that point in his career, Stamkos was a little more active on social media. Worried that his fans weren’t sure how he was doing, Stamkos was kind enough to post a photo a few days after the injury to let his fans know how he was doing. The results were not...pretty, but definitely heroic.