With Steven Stamkos receiving the lion’s share of attention for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, you might understand if Martin St-Louis was feeling a little like a forgotten man.
Well, as forgotten as someone who is fourth in the NHL scoring race can feel. But as it turns out that’s certainly not the case – at least within the confines of the Lightning dressing room and the St-Louis household.
“My wife, my kids, they love me,” St-Louis said. “That’s all I need. I don’t really care.”
St-Louis has won just about every individual honor known to man, but now the perception is that he has been relegated to the role of helping Stamkos win them. That is true to a degree, but you might be surprised to learn that, of Stamkos’ 21 goals on the season, St-Louis has assisted on just 11 of them and just six of those assists are first assists.
By contrast, Stamkos has actually assisted on eight of St-Louis’ 10 goals, with six of those helpers counting as first assists.
So it’s not as though St-Louis is riding on Stamkos’ scoring coattails. But there is little doubt St-Louis has had to put his ego aside in the later years of what could be rounding into a Hall of Fame career. That would be a problem if St-Louis actually had an ego.
“He’s not a forgotten man with us,” said Lightning coach Guy Boucher. “He’s Mr. Warrior. He’s an incredible leader and people who have seen him play tell me he’s better this year than the year he won the MVP. And he’s the most unselfish guy around. For him, everything is about the team.”
Boucher might be onto something when he says St-Louis is playing better than he did in 2003-04, when he won the scoring championship and the Hart Trophy. With two goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs Nov. 30, St-Louis bumped his season totals to 10 goals and 31 points in 25 games. That puts him on pace for a career-high 69 assists and 102 points, which would tie the mark he set in 2006-07.
“For me, it’s about consistency,” St-Louis said. “I think I’ve been a player who has been in the mix for a while. Winning the trophies I’ve won, they kind of came out of nowhere, but I think since then I’ve been a guy who has been in the mix.”
There are those who will argue St-Louis is more important to the Lightning’s fortunes than Stamkos. The two are obviously inexorably linked, but there might be something to that. Stamkos has definitely rounded out his game, but he remains a dynamic, explosive talent who can change the game in a millisecond. St-Louis, on the other hand, seems to control the tempo of the game more with his playmaking and puck-carrying abilities.
It’s actually quite interesting to note that as teams key in on Stamkos, it leaves St-Louis free to make more plays and create offense. A case in point was the game against the Leafs Tuesday night where Toronto did a good job of focusing on Stamkos and taking away his one-timer, but St-Louis responded with a two-goal effort.
The Lightning will need more of the same from both St-Louis and Stamkos during a stretch in which they play the majority of their games on the road. In fact, the Lightning will have 26 of their 41 road games out of the way by Jan. 9.
“He’s tired,” Boucher said of Stamkos. “The same thing with Marty. He’s tired. They’ve had to play so much. We’ve played basically three lines because we feel having seven defensemen gives us an edge.”
Through the fatigue and the triumph, you can be assured St-Louis will not go looking for the spotlight the way he does the net and his teammates’ sticks.
“I’m not looking to get credit,” St-Louis said. “I’m just trying to help my team win. The less attention, the better.”
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