So it becomes the kind of pressure where you don’t want to let yourself down and let people down who are watching and pulling for you. You put that inner pressure on yourself. It’s still a little early for [Stamkos] right now. Once you get to 35 goals in 35-38 games, then you’re on pace for that opportunity
-Wayne Gretzky on Steven Stamkos
Every year, we seemingly have some goal scorer with a host start over the first ten games, and the half-joking dreams of a goal-per-game pace litter the message boards and blogs. Then the would-be goal scorer returns to earth and the whole chase is forgotten. Except this year.
20 goals in 21 games.That's a quarter of the season that Steven Stamkos has managed to keep his goal-scoring pace up. That's half to the elusive 50-in-50, and while I don't think anyone believes Stamkos will come close to Wayne Gretzky's magical 92-goal total, 50-in-50 is still something that can be achieved. As he approaches the halfway point, it's becoming less a dream and more of a possibility.
So what will it take to get there? Coming up after the jump, a look at the schedule to 50, along with any notable goaltenders that Stamkos might face.Game 22: New York Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist)
Game 24: @ Washington Capitals
Game 25: Florida Panthers (Tomas Vokoun)
Game 26: @ Toronto Maple Leafs
Game 27: @ Boston Bruins (Tim Thomas)
Game 28: Colorado Avalanche (Craig Anderson)
Game 29: @ Calgary Flames (Miikka Kiprusoff)
Game 30: @ Edmonton Oilers
Game 31: @ Vancouver Canucks (Roberto Luongo; also, back-to-back road games)
Game 32: Atlanta Thrashers
Game 33: Buffalo Sabres (Ryan Miller)
Game 34: @ New York Islanders
Game 35: @ New York Rangers (Lundqvist)
Game 36: @ Atlanta Thrashers
Game 37: Boston Bruins (Thomas)
Game 38: Montreal Canadiens (Carey Price)
Game 39: New York Rangers (Lundqvist)
Game 40: @ Washington Capitals
Game 41: @ Pittsburgh Penguins (back-to-back road games)
Game 42: @ New Jersey Devils (Martin Brodeur)
Game 43: Washington Capitals
Game 44: New Jersey Devils (Brodeur)
Game 45: @ Carolina Hurricanes
Game 46: Columbus Blue Jackets
Game 47: @ Atlanta Thrashers
Game 48: @ Florida Panthers (Vokoun)
Game 49: Atlanta Thrashers
Game 50: Toronto Maple Leafs
The toughest stretches will be the December Western Canada road swing, and perhaps the early January back-to-back games against the Caps and Pens. Just over half of the games are on the road, and there are significant goaltending battles to face. On the other hand, Stamkos just might boost his goal total by 10 when the Bolts visit Long Island.
Stamkos has been the go-to guy in Tampa Bay for over a season now, so it's not like he's surprising anyone. However, the key to all of this (outside of health) is probably the return of Vincent Lecavalier. You can add Simon Gagne to that too, though it's to a much lesser degree.
Teams generally score at a higher rate during the first half of the season, then knuckle down and play tighter defensively starting in January and progressing through the start of the playoffs. That means that December and early January are critical for Stamkos to keep pace. With Lecavalier shooting to be back by mid-December, it spreads some of the offense around, meaning that defensive attention will have to be removed from solely the Stamkos-Martin St. Louis combination. If Gagne returns healthy and finally finds his groove with Lecavalier, then that makes things all the more dangerous for Stamkos. Coaches will have to pick their poison, Guy Boucher will have multiple options to work his power play with, and any mini-slumps can be hopefully be tinkered with by applying different line chemistry.
With 20 goals in 21 games, it's by no means a foregone conclusion but enough has happened that it seems feasible. And while this will probably capture the attention of Tampa-area sports fans and the Canadian media, I'm guessing ESPN won't be running a Stamkos Watch like they did back during the home run heydays of the late 1990s, when steroid-enhanced mutants cheated their ways to the record books. Perhaps if it was Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin, the American media would stand up and pay attention. For now, us hockey fans will just have to enjoy the ride, and it should be an interesting one.
Will Steven Stamkos get 50 goals in 50 games?
Yes (13 votes)
No (84 votes)
97 total votes