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91 Days of Stamkos: Day 37, Happy Birthday, Captain!

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The Raw Charge staff shares their favorite Stamkos moments.

Everyone except Patrice Bergeron is happy it’s Stamkos’ big day!
John Russell/Contributor/Getty Images

Steven Stamkos turns the big 2-7 today and everyone is celebrating!

Like the Lightning...

And us too here at Raw Charge, as we share our favorite moments of 91’s career.

1. Dealing with heartache

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six
Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

My favorite Stamkos moment is a heartbreakingly sad one, but it’s my favorite because it shows just how much character and leadership he has. One of the hardest things a captain has to do is face the media after a loss, and there was no loss more bitter and painful than the 2015 Stanley Cup Final loss in Game 6. The moment is immortalized by Craig Custance in an ESPN piece:

It was the last duty as Tampa Bay Lightning captain in these Stanley Cup finals Steven Stamkos performed before the reality of the situation crushed him.

He respectfully went through the handshake line, shaking the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks who beat his team 2-0 in Game 6 to officially end Tampa’s playoff run. Then, as the rest of his Lightning teammates quickly exited to the dressing room, he stood on the Tampa Bay bench by the tunnel.

One by one, as teammates came off the United Center ice one final time, he patted them on the back. Some got a pat on the side of the head. There was a quick hug for veteran defenseman Anton Stralman and another for goalie Ben Bishop. When his last teammate was off the ice, leaving the Blackhawks to celebrate on their own, Stamkos turned and walked down the tunnel.

When he entered a devastated Lightning dressing room, it hit him.

It was over.

And it hurt like hell.

Stamkos made sure that he took care of everyone — the Blackhawks, for their victory; the team, for their hard work and excellent play; and the reporters that he had to talk to after the game. He did his duty until the end, and because of that, forever earned my respect as the best captain the Tampa Bay Lightning could have. — Achariya

2. The 60th goal

Now that Achariya has depressed all of us, how about a happier moment? When asked to give my favorite Stamkos moment, I immediately thought of the time he scored his 60th game in Winnipeg on the last day of the season. This was before I had started to go to games, but me and my roommate at the time had made it a ritual of sitting and watching every Lightning game together that we could. This was one of them.

When the puck went into the net, we both jumped up, screaming and shouting. High fives ensued, and we rewound it probably 20 times watching it over and over. It was such a special moment for Stamkos to reach 60 goals. Only one other player has hit that mark since the 2004 lockout — Alex Ovechkin with 65 goals in 2007-08. Only nine players have hit 60 goals since 1990 on 12 different occasions.

Something that also stood out to me was that the Winnipeg Jets fans recognized what a feat it was. They stood and gave Stamkos an ovation. It’s not often you see fans standing to cheer an opposing team’s goal. And that just made the moment even more special.

It’s very fitting as well that the goal was assisted by Marty St. Louis, and that Victor Hedman was also on the ice to celebrate with him. Teddy Purcell immediately went to the net to retrieve the puck while Stamkos started his celebration. That puck should be displayed prominently and proudly somewhere in Stamkos’ house. — GeoFitz4

3. A goal that didn’t go in

Well, if Achariya is going to go sad and GeoFitz is going happy I guess I’m going to go somewhere in the middle. My favorite moment, out of so many of them, is this:

Yes, I know. It’s kind of weird to have a shot that didn’t go in, during a deciding Game 7 to return to the Stanley Cup Finals as my favorite moment, but what are you going to do?

It wasn’t the shot, but the fact that Stamkos was on the ice, period, that makes it rise to the top of the list for me — because that’s when I had the feeling that he was going to re-sign with the Lightning in the offseason. Why else would a player go through all he went through in recovering from the blood clots in order to play just one game for a team he was going to leave behind in a month?

If he didn’t play in the game, no one would have blamed him or called him soft. His legacy was secure in Tampa whether he laced up the skates or not. Yes, the Lightning needed him on the ice, but if he was going to sign with Toronto or Buffalo or Detroit, then he didn’t need them. Yet, there he was, doing everything he could to help the team win.

As for the shot itself, how many times have we seen him put that puck in the back of the net? And for a brief second, despite the fact that Matt Murray got a piece of it, it looked like the puck was going to hit the ice and trickle into the net. Didn’t we all hold our breath for what seemed like a minute as the puck bounced past Murray, through the crease and then harmlessly out the other side?

That’s the best part of Stamkos. All he needs is a second, one step on a defender, to change the game. If that puck went in, the game would have changed completely. It’s tied and the Lightning have the momentum. Their captain, in his first game back from a literally life-threatening injury, scored to tie the game. There is no way in hell they would lose after that.

Alas, it didn’t go in that time, but there will be moments in the future when the same scene unfolds. Stamkos will be alone with the puck streaking down the wing, his stick goes back and in the blink of an eye the puck is past the goaltender. Luckily for us, when it happens, Steven Stamkos will be wearing a Lightning uniform. — JustinG.

4. Re-signing with the Lightning

My favorite Stamkos moment happened over the summer. You have to understand something — Tampa doesn’t have a rich history of loyal athletes. People don’t leave money on the table to play in this city.

Steven Stamkos, one of the greatest goal scorers of his generation, chose to stay in Tampa. He wants to be here. He absolutely, unequivocally, left behind a larger paycheck in the hopes of delivering a championship to the team that drafted him.

Lightning fans aren’t used to this kind of loyalty. Every face of the franchise has left us in one way or another. Vincent Lecavalier was bought out of his contract. Martin St. Louis left to be a New York Ranger. I convinced myself that the captaincy was cursed and Stammer would be on his way out of town. Instead he shocked me — and everyone else — by staying true to his word and committing to the Bolts.

For me, it was just following your heart and being part of the organization that has brought me up and has made me the player and the person that I am today... At the end of the day, I made the decision that made my family and I happy, and hopefully the organization of Tampa happy, and the fans and the whole city of Tampa.

- Steven Stamkos Media Conference Call; June 30, 2016

Rest assured, Captain. You definitely made us all happy. We are incredibly fortunate to have the two pillars of our franchise (Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman) secured for the next eight years.

I have no doubt that Stammer will go on to have many more incredible highlights, but his devotion to this franchise and this city will always mean more to me than his incredible goal-scoring prowess..

That being said, I wouldn’t be completely opposed to seeing more of the Stamkov line. — Saima1226

5. Seeing him in a Team Canada jersey

World Cup Of Hockey 2016 - Semifinals - Russia v Canada Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

I’m American so it might be strange saying a favorite moment of mine is seeing Stamkos representing another country. But the Olympics eluded Stamkos twice already in his career. For the first, in Vancouver in 2010, he was quite young so it wasn’t too much of a surprise that he didn’t make it. But he was named as one of the alternates, not that that really means much.

Four years later, the worst injury ever happened during the year of the Olympics, and Stamkos missed it yet again despite his almost unhuman ability to rehab his way back in time. That one hurt. A lot.

So, seeing him finally in a Team Canada jersey for the World Cup last fall and playing a best-on-best tournament was a long time coming. That it took place in Toronto was just the icing on the cake.

“I think I was a little more anxious than some of the other guys, having not played in Sochi,” Stamkos said on Tim and Sid, a Canadian sports talk show. “I was looking forward to this in front of a lot of friends and family — I’m from right down the street.” — waffleboardsave