Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos won his first Stanley Cup after a year filled with difficulties. To add to his winnings, the captain was awarded the Sports Illustrated Play of the Year with his goal in the Lightning’s Game 3 win against the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Final.
In the 2019-20 regular season, Stamkos played 57 of the 70 games played before the pause due to Covid-19. He missed the final seven games of the regular season due to a lower-body injury that kept him off the ice for seven months. It was not until the Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton that Stamkos was able to return to play.
After a quick pass from Victor Hedman, Stamkos found the top corner of the net out of Anton Khudobin’s reach and sent the Lightning up 2-0. It was a goal that could not have been written any better. Stamkos joined the Lightning in the Edmonton bubble for just under 3 minutes of play upon his return in Game 3, in which he scored the goal that would later be named the Sports Illustrated’s Play of the Year.
Stamkos’ goal not only put another point on the scoreboard, but it brought emotion to the ice. The Lightning were already up that game, but having the heart of the group join the team for a playoff game was special. After the lower-body injury he acquired during the July postseason training camp, players and fans were left uncertain about the captain’s return. (from ‘Steven Stamkos will not play as Lightning have chance to claim Stanley Cup,’ Tampa Bay Times, 09/26/2020) When he finally returned to play, he scored just minutes after hitting the ice. Stamkos was injured during the play, making the goal his first and last of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Stamkos’ Early Career Award Success
Born February 7, 1990, in Markham, Ontario, Stamkos started playing hockey at the age of two with his father. While growing up, he played and succeeded in other sports that required hand-eye coordination, but his obsession with hockey continued to surpass the others. In 2006, Stamkos started playing in the Ontario Hockey League for the Sarnia Sting after the organization drafted him first overall.
Stamkos recorded 197 points in 124 games played over the two years he was with the Sting. After his first season with them, he was named to the OHL Second All-Rookie Team. Further in his OHL career, Stamkos led the Sting in points and was ranked second overall in the OHL in the 2007-08 season. In the same year, Team Canada named him to their World Junior Championship roster, where he helped lead the team to a gold medal win at the 2008 WJC — he put up six points in seven games at the tournament.
The captain has won the Maurice Richard Trophy twice while playing in the NHL. Stamkos was awarded the Rocket Richard Trophy in the 2009-10 season and again in the 2011-12 season. The trophy is given to the year’s leading goal scorer in the league. The first year Stamkos received the award, he scored 51 goals for the Lightning, which tied him with Sidney Crosby. In 2011-12, Stamkos took the award again after scoring 60 goals in a season. He led the league by ten goals, with the next closest player being Evgeni Malkin, who recorded 50 goals that season.
Stamkos has been more than deserving of his long list of awards throughout his hockey career. He has dominated in every league he has played.
Even while battling different injuries throughout the season, Stamkos showed his ability to be one of the best shooters in the league — he recorded 29 goals in 57 games played. After his injury in Game 3, he underwent surgery for a core muscle in October. The team has since announced that he will be making a full recovery and returning to play at the start of the 2020-21 season.
With Nikita Kucherov out for the 2020-21 regular season, Stamkos will share a line with Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point. His chemistry with Kucherov and Point has been unmatched, but it will be an exciting season to see how his new line combination produces for the team.