Steven Stamkos hadn't played in a hockey game for 7 months. He had core surgery in March, got injured again during Phase 2 of the return to play, and has watched as his team pretty much cruised their way to the Stanley Cup Final. 5 games in the First Round, 5 games in the 2nd Round, 6 games in the Conference Finals. It hasn't been the toughest road for the Bolts so far but this series is going to be everything for this current era of the Tampa Bay Lightning. A team that can either go down as one of the most dominant teams of the past 10 years, or just forgotten as a bunch of losers who couldn't get over the hump.
Lost in the Stanley Cup Final in 2015. Lost in the Conference Finals in 2016. Won their division and lost in the Conference Finals in 2018. Won the Presidents Trophy and got swept out of the 1st round in 2019. They've been knocking at the door for years now, but nobody will remember how dominant they've been unless they get their hands on that Cup.
So Stammer wasn't going to sit back and just watch it happen. Even if his body wasn't at 100%, he was going to get his ass out there on the ice and make a difference, even if it was just for a few minutes. Because it's the Cup.
Just look at that reaction. Doesn't matter that there weren't any fans in the barn, the roof was still about to explode. That's playoff hockey. That's a guy who is putting his body on the line because he knows the boys could use some extra gas. You could tell he was laboring. He only took 5 shifts on the night and his body might be too fucked to play again this series. But he still he made sure the Lightning went back to the locker room last night only 2 more wins away from bringing the Cup back to Tampa.
Because. It's. The. Cup.
And the rest of the Tampa lineup wasn't going to let Stamkos getting back out there go to waste. Kucherov, Hedman and Point all got themselves on the board. Sure would be nice if the Flyers could get all of their big dogs to eat in the playoffs when you need them the most, but I guess that's why Tampa is only 2 wins away from winning the Cup right now. That team was in full blown wagon mode last night and it's all thanks to Stamkos showing up for the boys and not giving a single shit about himself.
Sidenote: I don't know who needs to hear this (cough, cough, Carcillo), but a hockey player playing through an injury isn't toxic masculinity. Sure, it would be nice if players were able to receive better education about pain killers and substance abuse. But glorifying the fact that these guys push through pain in order to help their team succeed like this NHL commercial did shouldn't be an issue. But somehow the heroes on the internet were able to bully the NHL into deleting out.
It wasn't glorifying head shots. It wasn't glorifying fighting. It was literally just a compilation of guys putting their bodies on the line to block shots for their team because that's how much they care. But apparently that is too toxic for people to handle these days. What a joke.