When Tampa Bay lost Anton Stralman (leg) and Steven Stamkos (collarbone) in March and April, respectively, many people didn’t think the Lightning would accomplish much of anything in the postseason. Instead, they’ve advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, this after blanking the New York Islanders, 4-0, in Game 5 of their second-round series Sunday.
Victor Hedman was a man amongst boys in the series, notching four goals and four assists and leading the Lightning to four straight wins after dropping Game 1 at home.
“As you read comments of people covering the series and you listen to people on radio and TV, everybody they talk about – it’s Victor Hedman,” Tampa Bay Lightning television play-by-play announcer Rick Peckham said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “You mention three or four years ago and how his game has developed. He’s always been a very positive person, from when he was 18 years old and came through the draft in 2009 at second overall, right on through. But he just hasn’t known how to handle the responsibilities. He always wanted to be the man and now he’s figured out how to be the man in all these situations.”
Peckham recently asked Tampa Bay associate head coach Rick Bowness to describe Hedman.
“He said he’s everywhere all the time – and that really describes him,” Peckham said. “He can make a tremendous play at the offensive end, and if something breaks down, he can somehow manage to be the first defender back. He’s just that controlling of the play on both ends of the ice. He did a marvelous job in holding off John Tavares from the score sheet in those four wins, and I think he’s ready for the next challenge.”
Indeed, for all of his scoring and assisting, Hedman’s biggest contribution may have been holding Taveras in check. Tavares followed his great opening-round series against the Panthers with a goal and an assist in a 5-3 win over Tampa in Game 1. Then he was held without a goal or an assist in four straight losses.
“He and some other guys had a pretty good first game, but the Lightning really made a point of shutting him down,” Peckham said. “I think it was on display at its best (Sunday). Everywhere Tavares turned, he had three players surrounding him – and Hedman, of course, was on the ice at all times.”
Tavares was once considered a better player than Hedman.
“Tavares was ahead of him in his development,” Peckham said. “That was very apparent, right from the first year. But these last couple of years, Hedman has caught him and certainly proved in this series that he’s passed him. John Tavares is still one of the very best forwards in the National Hockey League, but Victor Hedman, the way he’s going, he’s just been completely dominant out there.”