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Steven Stamkos remains very good at hockey

Despite coming off a couple of major surgeries, the captain is having a typical Steven Stamkos type of start to his season.

Florida Panthers v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

He’s officially on the wrong side of 30-years-old. He’s coming off core surgery. He lost one of his favorite linemates of all time. Stanley Cup Hangover.

There was reason to doubt Steven Stamkos coming into this season. Some of it was warranted, for a player that creates an aggressive amount of torque on his shot, having any type of core injury could be detrimental. Other stuff, not so much. While it’s hard to think of Stamkos as a player in his 30s, his dedication to fitness should push his aging curve a little further down the line than the average NHL player in the past.

What we’ve learned through twelve games, or roughly a quarter of this abbreviated season: don’t doubt Steven Stamkos. With 8 goals and 15 points through those dozen games, the captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning is off to one of his finest starts in his career. Not bad for a player in his 13th season.

Based on his history, it doesn’t appear that Father Time is catching up with him just yet. Fast starts tend to be the norm in his career as he’s usually averaging well over a point a game through the first dozen games of each season he’s played in.

Steven Stamkos through 12 games

Season 5v5 Goals 5v5 Primary Assists 5v5 Secondary Assists 5v5 TOI/GP 5v5 CF% 5v5 XGF PPG PP Primary Assist PP Secondary Assist PP Ice Time Head Coach
Season 5v5 Goals 5v5 Primary Assists 5v5 Secondary Assists 5v5 TOI/GP 5v5 CF% 5v5 XGF PPG PP Primary Assist PP Secondary Assist PP Ice Time Head Coach
2008-09 1 1 0 10:02 50.50% 3.30 1 0 1 1:58 Melrose
2009-10 5 1 2 12:40 48.71% 5.82 5 2 0 5:00 Tocchet
2010-11 5 4 1 13:21 52.73% 7.21 4 0 4 5:12 Boucher
2011-12 5 2 0 14:22 50.46% 7.04 0 2 0 3:25 Boucher
2012-13 2 3 0 15:18 47.72% 6.44 3 3 2 4:27 Boucher
2013-14 4 4 2 14:29 46.13% 5.3 3 0 1 3:50 Cooper
2014-15 5 1 1 15:13 52.98% 6.47 3 3 0 4:01 Cooper
2015-16 3 1 0 14:31 49.55% 5.06 2 0 0 2:55 Cooper
2016-17 4 4 0 13:14 57.81% 7.33 2 2 1 3:33 Cooper
2017-18 1 7 4 14:22 54.75% 8.26 3 3 3 3:56 Cooper
2018-19 1 1 2 12:48 53.65% 5.51 1 2 1 3:39 Cooper
2019-20 1 4 2 14:33 47.35% 6.25 3 1 0 2:45 Cooper
2020-21 3 4 0 13:20 51.68% 7.19 4 1 1 3:52 Cooper
Steven Stamkos Through 12 games Natural Stat Trick

Throwing out his rookie season of 2008-09 when he was barely playing and not being used correctly when he was in the game, he’s averaged better than a point a game (5v5 and power play combined) in eight of twelve seasons.

Scoring seven times at even strength or on the power play (he also has one empty-netter) through twelve games is pretty impressive. It also shows how impressive it was when he scored 10 goals (2009-10) and 9 goals (2010-11) through similar starts early in his career. Steven Stamkos is just really good at scoring goals.

This season has rolled along much like the others in his career with the exception that he’s scoring more on the power play than he had been in recent seasons. That makes sense as he’s the main triggerman with Nikita Kucherov on the sidelines. It’s also a testament to his linemates that they’re still able to get him the puck in prime position despite everyone on the ice knowing that he’s going to shoot when the puck comes to him.

His time on the ice is up a bit this season as well as Coach Cooper has leaned on the top power play unit (rightfully so) a little more early in the season. While he’s nowhere near the over five minutes a game he put up in his second and third season, the 3:52 he’s averaging this season is his highest since 2017-18.

At even strength his playing time has dipped a little from recent seasons, but part of that could be due to a game he played in Nashville where he didn’t see the ice for the last five minutes of the game. It’s more likely a result of Coach Cooper trusting his other lines more than he has in the past. The nine players that usually make up the top three lines are all within 90 seconds of 5v5 ice time on a per game basis this season with Blake Coleman the lowest at 11:59 and Brayden Point the highest at 13:30.

The Lightning are one of the few teams that can and do roll three lines effectively throughout a game. While it may deny the top line a few extra opportunities to score goals, it also helps pace them through the season. That may prove beneficial later in the season when the games start piling up on top of each other. The Bolts could be one of the fresher teams heading into the playoffs simply because their top line isn’t playing 20 minutes a night right now (looking at you Toronto and Edmonton).

Despite playing in a few fewer minutes per game, he’s found his scoring touch at 5v5. He had scored just one goal per season in the previous three seasons at even strength through the first 12 games. Some of that may be attributed to having a wealth of talent surrounding him (especially in 2017-18 when he dished out 11 assists in those 12 games) in Point and Kucherov. He probably didn’t shoot as often as he should have, but as long as someone is scoring the goals, who really cares?

This season Stamkos is riding a bit of a high shooting percentage as he’s potting goals on 20.5% of his shots in all situations. That’s well above his career average of 16.9%, but it’s in the realm of possibility that he can hang around 19%, something he’s done twice in his career (19.8% in 2011-12 and 19.2% in 2018-19).

In both of those seasons he scored more than 40 goals. Since he’s been in the league only six players have finished a season with 40 or more goals and a shooting percentage of 19% or greater. Only Stamkos and Leon Draisaitl have accomplished the feat more than once.*

Since he usually takes shots from dangerous areas (especially on the power play) and his slapshot is a generational phenomenon, it isn’t unrealistic to think he could maintain that type of success for the rest of this abbreviated season. Although, it might be a bit of a challenge to get to 40 goals just because there isn’t enough games in the season.

It really is kind of impressive that he has found the back of the net four times on the power play despite taking nearly every shot with the man advantage from the same spot. Seriously, look at this grouping:

created by Micah Blake McCurdy, hockeyviz.com

Everyone knows he’s there and what he’s going to do with the puck and yet he still pulls it off. That’s a legendary talent.

If he keeps this pace going he would be looking at a 38-goal, 69-point season which is pretty comparable to what he did last season (29 goals, 66 points in 57 games). He’s been rather consistent this season as well. There have only been three games where he didn’t record a point and five games where he didn’t score a goal. Stamkos has also had three, three-game point streaks already and only went back-to-back games without a point once (and those games were five days a part so rust could have been a factor).

This is exactly the type of start the Lightning needed from Stamkos and the rest of his linemates. While having depth across the board is wonderful, every team needs their best players to come through if they want to have a successful season. So far it looks like both Stamkos and the Lightning are well on their way to success this year.

*The other four players: William Karlsson, Mika Zibanejad, Brayden Point, and Anders Lee. An interesting collection of players.