WINNIPEG – Steven Stamkos needed a run of 23 goals in his final 26 games to become the first center to hit the 60-goal mark since the 1995-96 season.
Stamkos managed just such a run, and he did it in the teeth of the Stanley Cup Playoff race for a Tampa Bay Lightning club that saw injuries decimate its roster and, ultimately, its postseason hopes.
Guy Boucher has far more to say about the work ethic of his 22-year-old star who became the 20th player to score 60 or more goals in one season than he does about the physical skill set that Stamkos possesses.
"What I like is that he just pushes always for more," Boucher said. "He just wants more all the time. It's never enough, and it's not the goals. He never has enough of getting better -- that's why he scores the goals. It's a by-product of his attitude, his work ethic, and his willingness to pay the price.
"It's not just about skill," Boucher continued. "Skill, in his case, is not the biggest [factor] in why he scores those goals. It's just desire."
Stamkos became only the second player since the start of the 2005-06 season to notch six goals, joining Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who notched the milestone during the 2007-08 season. The 48 even-strength goals that Stamkos collected are the most since the 1992-93 season.
Linemate Martin St. Louis has skated alongside the likes of Vincent Lecavalier and Dave Andreychuk during his NHL career, but he raves about Stamkos. The 22-year-old established a new career high with 97 points in tandem with St. Louis. The duo combined for 85 goals this season, the second-most for any pair in the League.
"When [Stamkos] broke into the League, everybody was so scared of his one-timer from the top of the slot," St. Louis explained. "He started having success like that, and then [opponents] started taking it away and it becomes harder and harder. So, [a scorer] feel like [he] has to re-invent [himself] all the time. He's done that this year."