Gretzky on Stamkos 50-in-50 chase: 'It's still a little early'

Steven Stamkos(notes) of the Tampa Bay Lightning has 20 goals in his first 21 games of the season, so he'll have to really pick up the pace to match Wayne Gretzky's 50 goals in 39 games from 1981-82.

OK, that's an absurd expectation, but 50-in-50 isn't at the moment for Stamkos, who has gone back-to-back games without a goal just once in the first two months of the season and has four multi-goal games.

Pierre LeBrun asked Gretzky about Stamkos's race to 50/50, and how it relates to his own experience with the benchmark three decades ago:

"For me, I remember being at the 37- or 38-goal plateau and thinking, 'The worst thing I can do now is fail and not get there,'" Gretzky said. "So it becomes the kind of pressure where you don't want to let yourself down and let people down who are watching and pulling for you. You put that inner-pressure on yourself. It's still a little early for [Stamkos] right now. Once you get to 35 goals in 35-38 games, then you're on pace for that opportunity."

He said the media coverage Stamkos is starting to receive is "a fun part of the game" rather than a stressful one.

In our evaluation of his chance at 50-in-50, we wrote about how the talent around him gave him a shot at pulling off the feat. Gretzky told LeBrun that's a key:

"The only way you can get 50 goals in 50 games is that you have to have real good linemates," Gretzky said. "It seems he's got a real nice fit with the guys he's playing with right now. They're playing off each other and playing real unselfishly. St. Louis seems to be playing as good as he's ever played, and that takes some pressure off a guy."

His other linemate, Steve Downie(notes), took part in another bit of ESPN Stamkos coverage as Scott Burnside gets the skinny on the NHL's Odd Couple. Something tells us Downie is the messy one.

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