Adam Oates was an assistant coach in Tampa a few seasons ago when he witnessed Steven Stamkos’ quest for 50 goals and his first of two Rocket Richard Trophies.
“He got an empty net at the end of the game,” Oates recalled. “We had two power plays in the third period where no one was going to shoot until Stammer got the shot.
“That shows what a good kid he is and how much the guys like him. Everybody wanted that to happen. And Florida, I remember, was trying to basically stand around Stammer, not let him get it and we just waited.”
Which brings us to this year’s race for the Rocket.
Alex Ovechkin has 32 goals in 47 games. Stamkos has 29 goals in 47 games. Both play their final game of the regular season tonight.
Both players are trying to become the first player to win three Rocket Richard Trophies, given annually to the NHL goal scoring leader since 1999. Ovechkin won it in 2008 with 65 goals and again in 2009 with 56. Projected over an 82-game season, Ovechkin would be on a 56-goal pace.
“Of course when you didn’t win two years, three years, and you’re coming back, of course you want to win it,” Ovechkin said after Saturday’s morning skate. “We’ll see what’s going to happen with Stammer. If he wins it, he wins it. But if not, I’m going to be pretty happy.”
Back in 2010, Stamkos scored five goals in his final four games to get to 51. He rifled 34 shots at opposing nets in those final four games, 18 in his last two. With that in mind, Ovechkin was asked if he expected a few extra passes from Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom tonight against the Bruins, who have allowed the third fewest goals in the league and have not surrendered a goal to Ovechkin in two games this season.
“I’m sure Backy and JoJo are going to do what they have to do,” Ovechkin said. “If I’m going to be open they’re going to give me a pass. If I’m going to be closed they have to shoot. We’ll just see what’s going to happen.
“One game left. [I’m leading by] three goals. If [Stamkos] scores three, it’s going to be good. But I’m going to try to score today, too.”
Islanders off the list: With Saturday's win over the Devils the New York Ranges moved into sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings , making them a possible first-round playoff opponent for the Capitals. The Islanders now can finish no better than seventh. The Rangers will remain in sixth place and face the Capitals if the Senators fail to pick up three points in their final two games.