A major injury occurred last week that not only hurt the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the entire NHL. On Monday, Nov. 11, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos suffered a broken tibia in a game against the Boston Bruins. Stamkos suffered the injury in the second period of the game while trying to get back on defense to prevent a goal. He went hard into the net and his leg went directly into the goal pipe. As multiple slow motion replays showed, Stamkos definitely broke something in his leg, and if that wasn’t enough, he was writhing in pain when he attempted to skate on it. Stamkos was taken off the ice on a stretcher, and Lightning fans feared the worst. When it was later discovered that he broke his tibia and would be out indefinitely, those fears became reality. He entered the game on an eight game point streak, with nine goals and four assists.
This is a huge loss for the Tampa Bay Lightning. After finishing second to last in the Eastern Conference just a season ago, the Lightning find themselves best in the Conference and one of the best teams in the NHL. The biggest improvements from last year to this year have been the Lightning’s defense and goaltending. Acquiring Ben Bishop before the end of the trade deadline last season was certainly going to help Tampa Bay’s struggles between the pipes, and it has. The team ranks ninth best in goals against with 2.3 allowed per game, which has also benefitted the defense. With Bishop as net minder, the Lightning defense has looked much better compared to how it did last year.
But, the only way that this improved defense and goaltending has done so much for the Lightning is because the one constant they have had over the last few years, their offense, has been so good. They rank seventh in the league in goals per game, averaging 3.1, and also have a fairly decent power play that ranks 12th with a 19.7 percent success rate. One of the main reasons for their offensive success has been Stamkos, the 23 year old Canadian. He has scored more than 20 goals in each season since he arrived in the NHL in 2008, including a 60 goal season in 2011 and a 51 goal season in 2009. This year, he had 14 goals in 17 games, once again showing how big a contributor he is to the Lightning offense. With him gone, the Lighting not only lose one of their top scorers, but also a player who is talented enough to pretty much win games by himself.
The NHL is also hurt by Stamkos’ injury. The league loses one of its best players and top scorers. Whether one is a fan of Tampa Bay or not, hockey fans certainly appreciate one of the most skilled players in the league and the amazing goals he scores night in and night out. Not only that, he is a player that many look up to in the league because of how he plays the game: he scores, he plays clean and he is respected by the his teammates and opponents. Losing a player like him hurts the league, just like when the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby was out for an extended period of time with a concussion. When your best, most liked and respected players are injured, it’s very hard to draw in potential new fans who are looking to get into the sport. So, not only is it in the best interest of the Lightning that Stamkos be healthy, but it is in the NHL’s as well.
And, obviously, this injury also hurts Stamkos. He was entering his sixth year in the league, and he was starting to cement himself as one of the best scorers and most feared players in the league to play against if you were an opposing goaltender. Now, he is injured for who knows how long, and there’s no telling if his injury is going to impede his play in any way. For a young prolific scorer like Stamkos, an injury like this could set him back from being potentially one of the all-time best in the league.
This was a terrible injury, and I think I speak for every hockey fan when I say that I hope that Stamkos returns to the ice as soon as possible and once again is able to amaze us with his powerful slap shot, wicked wrist shot and tremendous deking abilities. Not just for his team, or the league, but himself.