Wounded captain Steven Stamkos, relegated to 2:47 of play throughout the Lightning post-season run, welcomed the defender off the ice after that goal in Game 4.
The two men embraced, one in hockey gear, one in civilian clothes. It was a time of celebration, of joy, a “job well done” and a “thank you” and an understanding that the best-prepared plans don’t always work as expected.
For Shattenkirk there was relief and redemption. For Shattenkirk, the championship was the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice, one of the highest possible highs in hockey, just over a year after one of its lowest lows.
Because Shattenkirk shouldn̵
Video: TBL @ DAL, Gm4: Shattenkirk scores PPG, wins race 4 in OT
But on 1 August 2019, after two seasons, Rangers bought his contract. His time in New York was over after 119 games.
“It was obviously very painful to see him go through the process of something that should have been so fabulous and something I think in the back of his head he always wanted and was always driving,” said longtime Shattenkirk agent Jordan Neumann. “Seeing him not work has been very painful for all those who love and care for him.”
The New York experiment, seen as a homecoming for the Shattenkirk that would keep Rangers in the Stanley Cup contention, ended with a reconstruction that Shattenkirk would not participate in. Rangers had been in the Stanley Cup playoffs for seven consecutive seasons, including the final in 2014 and the Eastern Conference final the following season. But after the arrival of Shattenkirk, Rangers lost the playoffs in 2018 and 2019.
The Washington Capitals, Shattenkirk’s team in 2016-17, won the Cup in 2018. The St. Louis Blues, his team from 2010-17, won in 2019.
He didn’t know what the future held.
“[You] I don’t really know which way it’s up to that point or how the chips will fall, “Shattenkirk said.” It was hard to see my former teams win the Stanley Cup two years earlier, groups of guys I had been with and get close to. It makes you wonder. Makes you think. ”
His phone started ringing. Although most of the teams had already committed to most of their free agents, the teams sought space to score Shattenkirk. He looked at the lightning bolt and in the group of Tampa Bay defenders saw a strong core of left-handed shots, which would have allowed him to mate with Victor Hedman or Ryan McDonagh or Mikhail Sergachev, a dream for any right defender.
He signed, for a season and $ 1.75 million, four days after Rangers bought his contract.
“In my mind, when it all happened last summer, my goal was to be able to prove myself and prove that I could still be a player in this league,” said Shattenkirk, scheduled to become a free agent. without restrictions on 9 October. .
Video: DAL @ TBL, Gm2: Shattenkirk buries in traffic
Lightning was thrilled. They had added forward Pat Maroon and defender Luke Schenn, and believed the three veterans would make a difference after a 2018-19 season when they finished with 128 points, the fourth-most in NHL history, but were swept away in four first-round games by the Columbus Blue Jackets. They had to make changes, including the team culture, and Shattenkirk was an important part of that.
“Ultimately, when you try to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, you’re racking up talent,” said Lightning CEO Julien BriseBois, “but you’re actually building a team, and they were all key pieces to help this picture come together. for us this year. ”
This was their vision. This was Shattenkirk’s vision.
Just a little further south than he had anticipated.
“The second half of the two years opened his eyes to how he wanted to play in a winning team and how important it was to win,” said Neumann. “Being in a place where he knew he could win, I think he really revived. I think of course he felt like he had something to prove, that what happened in New York wasn’t what it was as a player. And you put it together. those two things and I’m not even a little surprised that he’s had a great year. ”
Shattenkirk has scored 34 points (eight goals, 26 points) in 70 games this season and up 22, and scored 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 25 post-season games. Always dangerous in the power game, he has found an adaptation, as part of the whole, as part of a group of defenders who have players with more important roles. Lightning allowed him to be the player he was when he found a home with the Blues.
When Ken Hitchcock coached him in St. Louis for six seasons, Shattenkirk was efficient. He didn’t force his offensive play. He moved the record well. He let the game come to him. It didn’t happen in New York.
There, nothing went as planned. Rangers missed the playoffs in 2018. Shattenkirk finished with 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) in 46 games, one season removed from scoring 56 (13 goals, 43 assists) in 80 games between the Blues and Capitals. He was 14 years old. The following season he had 28 points (two goals, 26 assists) in 73 games for New York and was minus-15.
Instead of being one piece, Shattenkirk seemed to feel the need to be the main piece. That wasn’t what had made him wanted as a free agent. That wasn’t what allowed him to be successful. He wasn’t even really who he was as a person. As Neumann said, “As far as he will tell you he’s a great golfer, there’s no question when you spend time with Kevin who was born to play a team sport.”
That wasn’t how it sounded in New York.
“You feel like it’s a team here that recruited me, they wanted me, and I have to produce,” Hitchcock said. “So sometimes you get stuck trying to produce rather than just adapt. … And then suddenly the internal pressure on yourself really starts building, and it’s hard. It’s hard for players to fix that stuff.”
But there were classes in New York. The crucial ones.
“I think it made him a better person, made him a better hockey player,” said Neumann. “Did it work? No. But he’s also the first to say he has no regrets because he wanted to see what it was like playing for his hometown team. And if he didn’t take the chance he would regret not trying. So, yes, it didn’t work. But no regrets: you go on as a better person and a better player. ”
He became exactly that with Tampa Bay, going back to his roots, fitting perfectly on the ice and in the locker room, taking on some of the leadership role Lightning needed to fill.
And he let the experience with the Rangers guide him, push him.
“I’ve said it before, I’ve never forgotten what happened last summer,” Shattenkirk said. “I used it to feed myself and I just didn’t feel comfortable.”
Friday’s match was, in a way, a microcosm of what Shattenkirk has been through over the past year and more.
The equalizer of the Stars center Joe Pavelski with 8:25 left in the third period he had gone to Shattenkirk’s knees. But Shattenkirk was undeterred. With lightning on the power play during overtime, he took a wrist shot from the right engagement circle.
Within. Once again he was redeemed.
His lowest low had made him soar higher than ever in his career.
“I think the whole hockey world is able to sit down now and … hopefully enjoy what we all knew two, three, four, even eight or nine years ago about how good a player is,” he said. Neumann. “And I think maybe with the bumps on the road here for the past couple of years, maybe it’s been a little forgotten.
“So if there is some redemption in that, I think it’s great.”