TAMPA, Fla. | Steven Stamkos doesn’t want linemate Teddy Purcell to set him up for goals. Not even now. Especially not now.
Sitting on 56, the Tampa Bay Lightning star could join Alex Ovechkin as the only players to hit the 60-goal mark since the lockout in 2004-05.
But Lightning coach Guy Boucher said Stamkos’ chase for 60 is more a media creation and isn’t a topic in the locker room. Listen to the 22-year-old and you’ll believe it.
“It’d be great. It would cap off a good year individually, but I would trade that in in a heartbeat to have more success as a team, especially after last year’s playoff run,” Stamkos said. “You get a taste of it, you realize how close we were and we want to get back to that same spot.”
Almost a year after the Lightning made an improbable run to the Eastern Conference finals, they’re out of contention, and Stamkos’ bid is the last bit of drama left in a disappointing, injury-riddled season.
You wouldn’t know it from inside Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“He’s not going after the 60. He’s going after our team winning and playing better and being a leader. But that’s him,” Boucher said. “Whether he stays at 56 or goes to 62 to me he’s always going to be a great leader, a guy who pushes forward to get more,”
Boucher took it a step further, too, envisioning Stamkos on the doorstep Saturday as the seconds tick away toward the end of the season.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets an open net and he’s got 59 and he [passes] it to someone else,” he said. “If he gets 59 because he gave it to somebody else, that says a lot more to me than 60 on paper.”
Not that 60 on paper would be too shabby, either.