The Tampa Bay Lightning will have to battle for first place in the Atlantic Division and the league without the services of their Captain Steven Stamkos for the rest of the regular season. The Lightning, who won the President’s Trophy as the league’s top regular-season team in 2018/19, have an outside chance to hang onto their crown this year but it’ll be an uphill climb.
As of March, 2nd, the day Stamkos is set to undergo surgery in St. Louis, Tampa Bay sat third overall in the league table with 87 points from a record of 41-19-5 but had won just one of their last four games. They trail the Boston Bruins for first place in both the Atlantic Division and the overall league standings by seven points with a game in hand on the Bruins.
Tampa shouldn’t have a problem hanging on to their playoff spot though as they were sitting 14 points ahead of the fourth-place Florida Panthers in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand. However, with the Lightning announcing that Stamkos will miss from six to eight weeks of action, there’s a good chance he won’t be ready for the first round of the postseason.
The 30-year-old Stamkos needed surgery to repair a core muscle problem after apparently aggravating it in a 4-3 home defeat at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 25th. Stamkos, who scored a career-high 60 goals in 2011/12 had 29 goals and 37 assists for 66 points after 57 games this season. This ranked him second on the squad in both scoring categories behind Nikita Kucherov who had 31 goals and 49 assists for 80 points in 60 games.
Stamkos was the first overall draft pick in 2008 and he’s spent his entire NHL career with Tampa Bay. He’s played 803 regular-season games in the NHL up to now with 422 goals and 410 assists under his belt for a total of 832 points. He also has 155 power-play goals to his name along with 61 game-winners. The 6-foot-1-inch, 195 lb center from Markham, Ontario has added 23 goals and 30 assists for 53 points in 70 playoff contests with 11 power-play markers and a pair of game-winners.
This is the third time Stamkos has missed a considerable amount of playing time due to injury. He played just 37 games in 2013/14 due to a broken tibia and only 17 times in 2016/17 because of a torn meniscus cartilage in his right knee. He’s still managed to win two Rocket Richard Trophies as the league’s top goal scorer in 2009/10 and 2011/12 and is a two-time Second Team All Star. In addition, he’s scored the most career points for any NHL player born in the 1990’s.
Stamkos holds numerous Tampa Bay Lightning records and milestones as a player and will likely be headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame when he retires and becomes eligible. His absence will be a big blow to the club as it tries to make amends for last season’s dismal playoff performance. The Lightning won 62 games in 2018/19 to tie the Detroit Red Wings of 1995/96 for the most wins in a single season. However, they then fell apart in the playoffs and were swept in four straight games by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the very first round.
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