Lately, he moves slower. Any day now, someone might want to help him cross the street.
He used to be Marty St. Louis.
He used to be a big deal.
Now, he has one more chance at a memory.
You remember St. Louis, don’t you? For that matter, Rangers’ fans remember St. Louis, too, because he hasn’t done a lot lately. Sure, New York is an Original Six team, but lately, St. Louis seems like one of the Original Six players. In this playoff, he seems to be chasing the game.
He has one goal in the playoffs, which sort of puts him in the back seat with other passengers on the New York Rangers’ ride. He is 39 going on 59, if you know what I mean.
It has gotten so intense that an editorial at bluelinestation.com has suggested that it is time for St. Louis to contemplate retirement after his “miserable” post-season. According to the article, St. Louis “is failing to produce any offense whatsoever.” It further states that “every game, St. Louis seems to make either a blind pass that is turned over in the middle of the ice or makes a weak pass up the boards that gets intercepted.”
And yet, it is Game Six. Marty time, we used to call it around Tampa Bay. It was the time when St. Louis grew a little bit, when it made a difference.
This time, however, he will be playing for the other guys. This time, no one in Tampa Bay wants Marty to make an impact.
Here lately, it even takes some effort to boo St. Louis, not that fans don’t seem to manage. In these parts, people still take it personally over the way St. Louis pouted his way out of Tampa Bay, leaving for reasons that had nothing to do with the Lightning and without very much explaining on the way. Most of the reason has been because St. Louis was originally left off the Canadian hockey team, but that situation was rectified.
So what could it have been? Money? The Lightning paid him plenty. Loyalty? The Lightning gave him his first real chance in the league? Bright lights, big city? Maybe. That has wooed people from Tampa before.
So St. Louis traded it all in, his place as the most popular figure in Lightning lore, his legacy that included a Cup and an MVP, all those fans who wore his No. 26 jersey.
But if St. Louis has traded in his regard, he has not traded in his reputation.
Around here, fans remember how St. Louis would take command of Game Six. They remember 2003, when it was a St. Louis goal that did in the Washington Capitals in Game Six. They remember 2004, when it was a St. Louis goal that won a double-overtime game against Calgary that staved off elimination. They remember 2011, when his pass to Steven Stamkos set up the winning goal in a game that forced Game Seven (which the Lightning lost) in the Eastern Conference finals against Boston.
Could it happen again?
When St. Louis scored a goal in the Rangers’ Game Four victory over the Lightning, it was a particularly harsh moment. It was one thing to look at the Bolts lineup and not see him there, and it was another to realize what his passing ability might have taken away from Steven Stamkos. But for St. Louis to inflict damage? That was the harshest cut.
“After Marty scored, he had three other real good looks,” said Rangers’ coach Alain Vigneault. “I’m hoping we’re going to see more of those.”
And maybe it will happen. If you remember St. Louis, you know he will arrive with a fire. It has always fueled him in a career that seems certain to end up in the Hall of Fame.
“When you go a long stretch and you lose that confidence a little bit, the game is not as clear,” St. Louis said the other day. “Especially when you have the puck, you’re pressing.”
For St. Louis, this goes down as his last chance. His contract is expiring, and although he has said he wants to play one more season, who knows if he will ever reach this stage again.
But Tuesday night? Against his old team?
There is one more shot at a moment.
And for the Lightning, there is one more chance to make sure it does not happen.