Those scoring at home know that something is wrong with Steven Stamkos. The Tampa Bay Lightning forward has yet to score a goal in eight playoff games. He only has three points, despite 25 shots on goal.
For the Montreal Canadiens, this inefficacy has been a good thing. Stamkos wasn’t a factor in Game One of their playoff series and has to be hoping he can pull out of the slump in time for Sunday’s Game Two. That may prove sufficient motivating fire, which could mean that the Habs have a lot to worry about. Or it could mean more of the same, with Stamkos not finding the scoreboard again.
“You look at the stat sheet and you see Stamkos didn’t have a goal, but at the same time that’s the guy you’re really worried about,” Canadiens forward Devante Smith-Pelly said. “If he gets one, chances are it’s going to snowball the wrong way for us. We did a good job and we’re going to continue to play hard on all their guys.”
Are the Canadiens doing anything different against Stamkos? That’s something the club isn’t talking about.
There has also been speculation that Stamkos is injured. He hasn’t scored in nine games if you tally up the regular season as well. This is his longest drought since he was scoreless in 11 games back in December of 2008. That was his rookie season and since then he’s been an effective dynamo.
Stamkos has been on the ice for 23.01 scoring chances every hour of five-on-five play thus far in the playoffs. During the regular season, he was on the ice for 30.08 scoring chances every hour of five-on-five play. He was active for just eight scoring chances against the Habs so far in the series. That was over the course of 33 shifts totalling just over 24 minutes of ice time. He had three shots on goal in Game One.
Obviously the Canadiens are concentrating on containing Stamkos, which accounts for a lot of the above statistics. That has changed the looks he’s been able to get at the net, which in turn has limited his chances on one-timers and from the outside. During the regular season, Stamkos was able to score five goals against Montreal – his most against any opponent. And now?
“It’s just getting tougher and tougher,” Stamkos said. “When you’re out there and you’re trying to get to the net, there’s guys obviously that have a job and they don’t want to be on the video the next day because they let you go in the slot or let you have an opportunity to score.”
Whatever the Habs are doing, it’s working. Limiting his ability to move where he wants is job one for Montreal’s defenders. Success in this series depends on it.