Introducing The Hockey Writers’ Countdown to Puck Drop series. From now until the puck drops on the 2019-20 NHL’s regular season on Oct. 2 when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Ottawa Senators, we’ll be producing content that’s connected to the number of days remaining on that particular day. Some posts may be associated with a player’s number, while others will be connected to a year or length of time. We’re really excited about this series as we take you through the remainder of summer in anticipation of the return of NHL hockey.
Scoring 60 goals in one season is one of the top feats an NHL player can accomplish, and the last player to do so was Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. With 60 days left until puck drop, we’re going to take a look at his 60-goal season in 2011-12 and see what made him so dominant that year.
A Season for the Record Books
Although the Lightning missed the playoffs in 2011-12, it was a season to remember for Lightning fans because of how good Stamkos was. He won the Rocket Richard Trophy for the second time in his career and was named a second-team NHL All-Star, but he also led the league in even-strength goals (48), game-winning goals (12) and goals per game (0.73), all of which are franchise bests. His 60 goals were the most a Lightning player has ever scored in a single season, and he also has set franchise marks in adjusted goals (68), adjusted goals created (48.3), offensive point shares (12.8) and total point shares (14.8).
Stamkos was simply the best pure goal scorer in the league that season, and there’s no question about it. The next closest player to Stammer was Evgeni Malkin, who led the league with 109 points, but he only had 50 goals. Only 19 players have scored 60 goals or more in a season, and the list includes Alexander Ovechkin, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull, among others. Not bad company for a guy who was 21 years old at the time.
Looking at the Splits
Stamkos played all 82 games in 2011-12 and his home and road splits are as expected. At what was then Tampa Bay Times Forum, he had 36 goals and 21 assists for 57 points. While on the road, he had 24 goals and 16 points for 40 total points. However, when the Lightning won, Stamkos was a big reason why. In their 38 wins, he had 40 goals and 21 points and was plus-28. In the Lightning’s 36 losses, he had just 17 goals and 12 points for 29 total points. He also had 12 game-winning goals and was a big reason why the Lightning won as many games as they did. However, even when the Lightning lost, Stamkos was still scoring.
Many players have big first halves of the season and then struggle in the second half, or vice versa, but Stamkos was consistent throughout all 82 games. In the first 48 games before the All-Star break, he had 32 goals and 52 points. In the 34 games after the All-Star break, he had 28 goals and 45 points, which was actually outpacing his totals before the All-Star game. He was also playing almost two minutes more on average after the All-Star break which shows how much they needed him to make a playoff push, and while it ultimately fell short, having more ice time was a big factor in his second-half scoring surge.
Against Eastern Conference opponents, Stamkos had 44 goals, 31 assists and 75 points in 64 games. He had at least 10 goals against opponents from each of the three divisions — Atlantic (11), Northeast (13) and Southeast (20) — with at least a point per game in each division except the Northeast, in which he had 18 points in 20 games.
When facing Western Conference opponents, he had 16 goals, six assists and 22 points in 18 games. Breaking it down by division, Stamkos had eight points in seven games against Central Division opponents, five points in as many games against Central Division foes and nine points in six games against teams from the Pacific Division. He also had a goal per game against the Central and Pacific Divisions.
In short, Stamkos tore it up no matter who he was facing, and his presence — or lack thereof — was felt when the Lightning were on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
Stamkos notched his 60th goal of the season against the Winnipeg Jets in the Lightning’s last game of the season. According to Bleacher Report, he had heard chants of “No goal Stamkos” all night long, but after he scored No. 60, he received a standing ovation from the crowd at MTS Center.
As the play developed, Lightning defenseman Brian Lee went up the right side and protected the puck, eventually passing down low to Martin St. Louis. St. Louis got rid of the puck quickly to Stamkos who found a seam between four Jets players and ripped a shot past the glove of Ondrej Pavelec. Fans were initially booing since their team just got scored on, but once they realized the milestone Stamkos had accomplished, the boos turned into cheers and a standing ovation.
With the 60th goal, Stamkos became just the second player since the 1995-96 season to score 60 when Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr both did it for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Bolts ended their season with a three-game road trip against Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg, and Stamkos didn’t score against Montreal which put the pressure on. He was able to get one in an overtime loss against the Maple Leafs, and he told NHL.com that to score the milestone goal in Canada made it even more special.
“That made it even more special, to like I said do it in Canada and have them do an ovation like that, it was amazing,” Stamkos said.
It was a special moment for Lightning fans and people who love the game of hockey, but especially for Stamkos since St. Louis had a role in helping him get No. 60.
“I couldn’t have written a better script. Marty’s a huge reason why I’ve had the successes that I’ve had in the NHL in my first four years. Two years ago when I scored 50 he wasn’t able to get an assist. This year he did and on 60 again,” Stamkos said.
Although Stamkos — or any other player, for that matter — may not reach 60 goals again, he can say that he had one of the best goal-scoring seasons of any player in NHL history.