Monday morning, two days after he recorded his league-best 60th goal of the season, the realization of achieving such a significant accomplishment still had yet to resonate, Lightning forward Steven Stamkos
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” he said.
But if there was one positive to take away as a result of his team not qualifying for the playoffs this season, it’s this: “I guess I have all summer to think about it,” Stamkos added. Considering the magnitude of accomplishing such a rare feat, the six-month offseason is likely an accurate estimate of just how long it will take before the significance of the mark hits home.
On Saturday, as the Lightning wrapped up the 2011-12 regular season in Winnipeg, Stamkos became just the 20th player in NHL history to record at least 60 goals in a single season, and the first since Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08.
Once again, his timing was impeccable.
Stamkos scored 3:29 into the final period of his team’s final regular season game when he ripped off a wrist shot from the left slot past Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. Two years earlier, at conclusion of the 2009-10 regular season, Stamkos also scored on the final day of the regular season to notch his 51st goal and finish in a first-place tie with Sidney Crosby for the Rocket Richard Trophy.
“It’s kind of funny how it came down to the wire both times,” he added, “but I was fortunate enough to have it all work.” It wasn’t only the end of a season, but just as much the end of what had been a trying week for the 22-year-old center.
After Stamkos scored his 50th goal on Mar. 13 versus Boston, the Lightning’s 13 games remaining on the regular season schedule made the thought of scoring 60 goals seem a likely possibility.
Stamkos celebrates his 60th of the season goal against the Jets in the third period in action at Winnipeg's MTS Centre. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
But as he inched closer to 60, media scrutiny increased, as did the pressure that went along with hitting the mark in the allotted time. To relieve some of that, Stamkos even attempted to downplay the significance of the milestone, saying it would not make or break his season.
“I was trying my best not to show it and hide it,” Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times.
But once he did do it, “it was special,” he added.
That Martin St. Louis
, Stamkos’ friend and mentor on the team, received the primary assist on the 60th goal provided the movie-script like ending.
“He’s been a huge part of my success, so I was happy for him and was glad he got to share that moment with me,” Stamkos said. “But it still hasn’t sunk in yet, so it’s going to probably take a little while.”
And it just might be a little while before someone other than Stamkos scores 60 goals in the NHL again.