In their biggest game, Bolts need Stamkos again

by Gary Shelton on May 2, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Stamkos needs to assume the leadership role for Bolts./CARMEN MANDATO

Stamkos needs to assume the leadership role for Bolts./CARMEN MANDATO

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

Once again, the other players of the Tampa Bay Lightning turn their heads toward his cubicle.

Once again, they wait for him to make a pass, make a shot, make a goal.

Once again, they look to Steven Stamkos to lead the way.

On the Lightning, he has become the second-best scoring threat. These days, he is a point guard, distributing the puck, setting up other players. But in what may be the most important game that the Lightning will play this season, it is his time. It is his rink. It is his moment.

Look, it's nice that Stamkos is a nifty passer. But you know what? The best pass in the history of ice doesn't change the scoreboard. Goals do. It is time that he resumed the leadership role. We need Batman, not Robin. We need Captain America, not Hawkeye.

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Granted, the thing about the Stanley Cup playoffs is that, usually, the games get bigger as you go along. But for the Bolts, Boston might be the toughest matchup of them all, and going on the road might be the biggest game. If the Bolts can steal this one, they will lead in the series, and they will have quelled the TD Garden.

Which brings us back to Stamkos. Even now, even after a 27-goal season, he remains the heartbeat of the Lightning. Even now, he can fill the hearts of his teammates by scoring a big goal.

It is time, you know. Stamkos has just one goal in seven playoff games. He didn't score a goal for the last 12 games of the regular season. It has been a while since we have witnessed him at his best, launching that quick-death one-timer of his past another goaltender.

Ah, but this has been a different Stamkos this season. He has assumed the second-banana position, often preferring to pass to Nikita Kucherov instead of shooting. He was tied for 46th among NHL scorers this year.

What's the cliche about the NHL? That at the biggest times, your best players have to be your best players?

Who else do you think should carry the Bolts in tonight's game? Kucherov? Maybe, but the Bruins have done a good job on him? Brayden Point? Tyler Johnson? Alex Killorn?

No. This time, it's up to Stamkos. If he can get one past Tuukka Rask, if he can get the Bolts into a lead, it give the Bolts the spark to pull this thing out.

Hey, Stamkos is a front-of-the-room player. He's a difference-maker. He's a goal scorer.

Tonight, as much as any night.

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