Hedman Vital to Bolts Success

With the Tampa Bay Lightning now seven games into the postseason, it is clear that the team is experiencing an odd scoring anomaly. Despite being the fifth-highest scoring team in the playoffs, their Norris Trophy candidate defenseman Victor Hedman has only registered two points.

Under normal circumstances, two assists might be acceptable production for a defenseman in seven games. However, as one of the top offensive defensemen in the NHL, there are different expectations placed on Hedman’s shoulders. This begs the question, how does a player who posted 17 goals and 63 points en route to a nomination for the Norris Trophy during the regular season only register two points in the postseason?

Lightning Power Play Not Aiding Hedman’s Stats

It starts with the Lightning’s power play. While the team has been somewhat productive with the man advantage, scoring on around 27 percent of their opportunities, Hedman has not registered a point. This is unusual for him, given that he scored 26 power play points in the regular season, the ranked fifth among defensemen.

Part of this slump could be attributed to how the Lightning are scoring their goals on the man advantage. Since he plays on the top line, Hedman typically picks up points from feeding the puck to star shooters like Nikita Kucherov or Steven Stamkos. However, those two have only registered one power-play goal in the postseason.

Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL
Despite playing significant time on the Lightning’s top power-play unit, Victor Hedman has yet to register a point with the man advantage. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Instead, the player who is finding the most success on the top-line powerplay unit is Alex Killorn. In the playoffs, he has scored three powerplay goals off of rebounds from the likes Kucherov and Stamkos. This has taken a few points out of Hedman’s pocket already since he is often the secondary assist on the powerplay. He is still been playing an important part in setting up the shot that led to the goal, but he simply isn’t getting the credit for it on the scoresheet.

It’s also worth noting the Lightning’s top power play line has been struggling to score over the last few games. The team has been relying on the second unit for production, which has pushed rookie Mikhail Sergachev’s point totals to the top among Lightning defenders despite his limited ice time. Until the top unit gets it going again, though, Hedman will struggle to produce consistently which he was known for during the regular season.

Hedman Dominating off the Scoresheet

The good news is that despite his lack of scoring production, Hedman has still been one of the most dominating figures on the ice this postseason. Hardly a minute goes by when he isn’t influencing the play, either by breaking up odd-man rushes, being in the right position to get the puck into or out of the zone, or simply using his size to block a shot. While playing a team-high 26 minutes each night, he has had a lot of opportunities to showcase his talents.

Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi
On paper, Dan Girardi is Victor Hedman’s partner on the top-pairing, but Hedman often finds himself playing with multiple defenders throughout the night. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

Hedman has also found himself playing with pretty much everyone on the team this postseason, from veterans like Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman to the rookie Sergachev. Despite playing with many different partners, he has still been a monster, posting a Corsi for around 57 percent. This means that the Lightning are typically driving the play when Hedman is on the ice, no matter who he is playing with.

Hedman Is Primed for a Breakout Game

Even if he hasn’t been scoring at his usual rate, the opportunities will be there for Hedman to cash in on his strong play eventually this postseason. Just given the amount of time he spends on the ice with some of the top scorers in the NHL, he seems due for a multi-point game.

However, as long as he can continue playing the type of hockey that led to a Norris nomination this season, the Lightning will be fine with a low-scoring Hedman. If he can play more than 25 dominant minutes each night, it will put the team in the best position to win, no matter what his point totals look like.