The Tampa Bay Lightning can’t seem to buy a win these days, but defenseman Victor Hedman is finally showing he can contribute at both ends of the ice.
Given Tampa Bay’s off-season addition of veteran Sami Salo from Vancouver, Hedman knew there was a little leeway regarding him jumping into the offensive rush. However, his decision making had to improve.
Now that it has, 2009′s second overall pick is poised for a breakout year, as evidenced by his four goals and 10 points in 21 games played thus far. Of course, two of those goals came during their third period comeback from being down 0-3 to force overtime against the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 12.
Defensively, Hedman’s also thriving, with a career-best plus-7 rating. He sees time on both the power play and penalty kill which, at 21.6 and 81.1 percent respectively, is much better than last year. Actually, the Lightning only allowed one 5-on-3 goal to both the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins last week.
With Salo missing the past two games with a lower body injury, Hedman’s seen his ice time greatly increase. He went from averaging between 21 and 24 minutes per game with Salo in the lineup, to nearly 27 minutes a game without him. The only other players near that were forwards Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. That obviously says a lot about the confidence head coach Guy Boucher has in him.
If the Lightning plan to make any sort of late playoff run, Hedman must continue his solid two-way play. Their problems winning lately leave no other choice.