Home cooking is the only new thing for Steven Stamkos at Toronto reunion

TORONTO — When the Maple Leafs rolled out the red carpet for Steven Stamkos nearly six years ago, hoping to lure him to Toronto in free agency, Lightning coach Jon Cooper certainly thought there was lucky that Stamkos got away.

Sometimes you can’t compete with the romance of coming home. The Leafs’ meeting with Stamkos not only included the brass of the hockey team, but also the town’s mayor and the CEO of Canadian Tire to talk about sponsorship deals.

“Deep down – having been around him for as long as we had – it was hard for me to think he would go, but if there was one place he would have gone it would have been the place,” Cooper said. . “There’s nothing you can really do to separate yourself from the player coming home. But for Stammer he was comfortable and I think he looked ahead and saw what we had.

Related: Playoff prank: Lightning fan kicked out of house by Maple Leafs parents

Stamkos won the Stanley Cup twice with Tampa Bay, while Toronto is still looking for its first playoff victory since 2004. And now Stamkos, who grew up in the Toronto suburb of Markham, has the chance to play in his hometown in the playoffs. .

After 14 years in the league, Stamkos has seen a lot. So aside from the home cooking, Stamkos said he didn’t expect this series to be any different from the others.

“I have to go to my parents’ house for dinner, so it’s different,” Stamkos said Monday before Game 1. “I’ve never done this on the road in the playoffs before. It was great. A home-cooked meal is the best, right? To be honest, it really didn’t feel (different).”

There was no hotter player entering the playoffs than Stamkos, whose 33 points in games on April 16 were the most players in a month since Mario Lemieux had 34 points in 14 games in December 1995. But after ending the regular season on a nine-game point streak, Stamkos was goalless in Monday’s 5-0 loss to the Lightning.

“I think he skates really well,” forward Alex Killorn said. “I think you look at the way he plays on both sides of the ice, he obviously scores a lot. He put himself in a lot of good situations. I think he would tell you himself that it helps to play with (Nikita Kucherov). But they both play really well.

Stamkos may not publicly buy the hype surrounding his return to Toronto, but after all these years he still sports a chip on his shoulder. He strives to show he can be the player he was despite a litany of serious injuries.

He has only missed one game this season, and that was for the birth of his second child. Stamkos worked his way into Team Canada consideration for the Olympics with a quick start before NHL players were told they couldn’t go. And when the Lightning needed a boost late in the regular season, Stamkos delivered, finishing with career highs in points (106) and assists (64).

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“I’m certainly proud of how I was able to overcome some difficulties in my career in terms of injuries,” Stamkos said. “I always believed in myself that I could make a difference in this league when I stepped on the ice. You’re always trying to prove people wrong.

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