Tampa Bay Lightning
For Lightning's St. Louis and Stamkos, a 1-2 finish in reach
The curtain comes down tonight on one of the more disappointing campaigns in the Lightning's 20-year history, one in which a promising 6-1 start spiraled toward the basement.
As Tampa Bay hosts Florida in the season finale, it also marks the end of an era — the final time the Lightning and Panthers play as members of the Southeast Division. Starting next season, the Lightning will play in a new, yet-to-be-named division with Detroit, Buffalo, Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Florida.
But before the Lightning's once-promising season fades into another without a playoff appearance, there is a notable feat to track in tonight's finale.
Tampa Bay teammates Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos enter today ranked first and second, respectively, in league scoring. St. Louis has 58 points and Stamkos 56, tied with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby.
Should the Lightning teammates end up as the top two scorers, it would mark just the 11th time in the post-expansion era a duo from the same team finished 1-2 in points.
“I want to see the guys do it,” Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. “I hope it matters (to them). It's come to the (last) game in the season and they have the chance to look back in history to see their name in the history book, especially a guy like Marty, who has the chance to become the oldest player in the history of the game to win a scoring title. Then you have Stammer nipping at his heels.
“In my perfect world, they would finish tied.”
Of course, a tie would see the scoring title go to Stamkos, because the tiebreaker is the player with the most goals. Stamkos is second in the league with 29, three behind Washington's Alex Ovechkin.
But heading into the final game, neither St. Louis nor Stamkos is focused on a scoring title.
“I don't think that really gets brought up,” Stamkos said. “It hasn't all year, so I don't think that will be an issue.”
In some ways it would be quite fitting if they end up 1-2 in the scoring race, because they have been intertwined for the better part of the past four seasons. They have been linemates, attended All-Star games together and even played on the same line at the 2009 World Championships with Canada.
This season, St. Louis has assisted on more than half of Stamkos' 29 goals, picking up 18 primary or secondary assists. Conversely, Stamkos has assisted on six of St. Louis' 16 goals.
But don't expect St. Louis to look solely to set up Stamkos tonight, or vice versa.
“You get in those situations, you just want to play the right way,” St. Louis said. “That's the only way you help each other out. We just want to play the game, finish the year strong and not think about it. You (reporters) are the ones reminding us, I'm just trying to go and play the game.”
Stamkos shares the sentiment.
“I don't think we've changed the way we have played the past few games,'' Stamkos said. “So, I don't think it will change the mentality of how we play, play the right way, and the way we have been successful.
“When you start forcing things and start cheating, you don't get rewarded, so I don't think that's going to change for the last game.”