CALGARY - Once Steven Stamkos started flirting with Gretzky and Hull, he raised the bar for himself.
Why else could someone describe a five-game goal-less streak heading as a 'slump'?
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s star centre certainly raised expectations when he started this season scoring 21 goals in the first 22 games.
“A real slump is when you are not playing well and things are not working out well for you,” said Bolts head coach Guy Boucher, prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Flames at the Saddledome.
“I don’t think Steven is in a slump at all. He’s getting scoring opportunities. He’s just a little unlucky at burying chances. He’s getting the same chances.
“He’s hitting posts or missing the net, or the other team is paying the price and blocking his shot.
“He has the same enthusiasm he had before those five games. He’s a real unselfish player. When we win a game and he doesn’t get a point, he has the biggest smile. We’re not worried about the slump.”
Stamkos has played the majority of the season with Marty St. Louis and, during the last three games, former Philadelphia Flyers star Simon Gagne.
During that span, Gagne has two goals and three helpers, while St. Louis has three goals and two assists in the past three games.
Even if Stamkos isn’t scoring, his linemates are anyway.
“A slump is when you aren’t creating anything and are in a funk,” St. Louis said. “Stammer is playing well. He just hasn’t scored a goal.
“He’s going to keep doing the same thing, playing the same way, he will get his fair share of goals. The media talks about him so much when he’s scoring goals and when he’s not scoring goals.
“For him, it’s hard to keep that balance. You have to play your game. He’s too good and too talented not to score goals.”
During the five-game ‘swoon’ heading into Tuesday night, Stamkos has lost the league scoring lead to one Sidney Crosby, who has nine goals in his last five games.
It’s a credit to Stamkos, the first-overall pick in 2007, that he’s put himself in the conversation with Crosby, or Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull for that matter.
At one time this season, it seemed that Stamkos could be going after the ‘50 goals in 50 games’ paces Gretzky and Hull at one time accomplished.
“He was scoring every night,” Gagne said. “At one point, he’s allowed to take a break.
“It’s not up to him to score every game. He’s allowed to have some of those stretches. It will happen. It’s a long season. It’s only five games. He has 21 goals so I’m not worried about him. He has a great shot and vision.
“Last game, he had an open net and one guy made the block. Most of the time, those go in for him. I’m not worried about him.”