With the hockey world eagerly awaiting Game Two of the Stanley Cup Finals, I am taking time to toss some accolades in the direction of a player who will not be on the ice when Chicago and Boston face off this evening.
Martin St. Louis is one of the NHL's best players in the last 15 years, and undoubtedly the greatest in the history of the Tampa Bay Lightning. It is remarkable that at his age (he turns 38 on Tuesday) he led the league in points this season by averaging 1.25 per game -- a number that puts him in rarefied air because Mario Lemieux and Gordie Howe are the only other players to achieve it after the age of 36.
In addition to capturing the Art Ross Trophy by leading the league in points, it was announced yesterday that St. Louis earned the Lady Byng Trophy for the third time in the past four years. The Lady Byng goes annually "to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability." A statistic that contributed mightily to his receipt of the Lady Byng is this: Despite logging the second most ice time of all forwards in the NHL this season, he accumulated merely 14 penalty minutes.
The word "gentlemanly" is not to be confused with "wimpy." At 5'8", St. Louis is one of the smallest players in a game marked by ruggedness and occasional violence, and thus has relied on scrappiness and tenacity to attain the kind of success he has had for so many years.
This was the second time he has won the Art Ross, and it should be remembered that he won the Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP in 2004, the same year he guided the Lightning to their only Stanley Cup championship. He was also the winner of the Lester B. Pearson Award that year.
Those of us who are Lightning fans know St. Louis has extraordinary defensive skills to go along with his offensive prowess. Throughout his career he has been a key contributor on the penalty kill and has shown an uncanny knack for scoring shorthanded goals.
In 2003, it was his top-shelf goal in double overtime that defeated the Washington Capitals in Game Six to advance Tampa Bay to the postseason's second round for the first time in franchise history.
In 2004, it was his blistering double overtime goal on a breakaway that defeated Calgary in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Finals -- forcing the series back to Tampa for that glorious Game Seven that the Lightning won to earn the honor of drinking from the chalice.
And now, nearly a decade hence, Martin St. Louis continues to play with the heart of a lion while churning out the numbers of a Hall of Famer. We appreciate it, and congratulate him for this year's trophies.