A feeling of déjà vu might be starting to creep into the thoughts of Lightning center Steven Stamkos.
Last season, when Stamkos scored his 40th goal of the season on Super Bowl Sunday, he had a 12-goal lead on Anaheim's Corey Perry for the league lead. But Stamkos went into a slump, finished with 45 goals and runner-up to Perry in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy.
This season, when Stamkos scored his 50th goal on March 13, he had a 12-goal lead over Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin in the Richard Trophy race. But Stamkos has not registered a goal in four games since – only the second time this season he has gone at least four games without a goal. That has once again opened the door for a competitor to sneak up from behind and grab a piece of hardware that seemed destined to be won by Stamkos.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Malkin has pulled to within five goals of Stamkos as the season winds down to the final two weeks, and Malkin has catching Stamkos in his thoughts.
"I want to score 50 goals,'' Malkin told reporters after his two-goal performance Thursday against Nashville to give him 45 on the season.
On the same night Malkin had two goals on 10 shots, Stamkos had six shots and plenty of chances. But for Stamkos, it's not about the lack of goals over the past few games or worrying about Malkin breathing down his neck for the Richard.
"I had lots of chances and try to stay as positive as I can,'' Stamkos said. "If you're not getting chances, then you start to worry. …It's going to come sooner or later.''
But Stamkos will be the first to tell you he's not in it for personal glory and individual trophies only come from team play.
"I'm more worried about producing so our team can win and, obviously, when I'm not, I'm not happy with myself,'' Stamkos said. "This is something I obviously want to change. Losing is not fun.''
The late-season slump that occurred last season is a distant memory and there are no similarities to what happened a year ago compared to the mini-slump Stamkos finds himself in now, other than the fact pucks are hitting posts instead of finding the twine.
"To me, he got away from the things that allowed him to score last year, he's not getting away from it right now,'' Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. "He's right there and it's a question of hitting a post and going in or the same deke and putting the puck in.''
If it takes a late-season push from Malkin to get Stamkos back in the scoring column, that's fine, but it's not the motivator.
"I think Steven is a lot more about what is going on here than what is going on in Pittsburgh,'' Boucher said. "It's not about Malkin and whether or not Malkin scores seven is not going to help Steve on the power play. Now, if it pushes him, good, but it's not something that I'm going to talk to him about.''