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Penguins' team meeting puts neutralizing Victor Hedman first

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Tampa's 1D continues to dominate, making Hedman the focus of Penguins' strategy for game 2.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

According to Chris Johnston, the Pitsburgh Penguins held a team meeting on Sunday, May 15, with a focus on ways to contain Victor Hedman. Tampa's 1D has been an increasingly dominant force in the Bolts' 2016 playoff run. In the 2015 playoffs, Jon Cooper was often criticized for his light deployment of Hedman, who had relatively low ice time in comparison to most of the elite defensemen in the league.

This season, due to Anton Stralman's injury, Cooper has no choice. Hedman has seen his icetime grow until it matches his capabilities, and instead of exhibiting signs of slowing down, Hedman's four goals and eight points against the Islanders matched a franchise high for playoff points in a series by a defenseman.

Chris Johnston @reporterchris
The #pens had a team meeting yesterday. One of the main messages is that they can't let Victor Hedman be as big of a factor in Game 2.

In game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, Hedman just exceeded Kris Letang at 27:41 TOI, but made every second count. The first goal of the game came when Hedman, standing behind the Lightning's net, spotted Alex Killorn along the wall near the offensive blue line. He made a perfect stretch pass, enabling Killorn to get behind Olli Maatta for the tally.

In the second period, Hedman drew a hooking penalty against Evgeni Malkin at the 1:46 mark. Ondrej Palat soon capitalized on the opportunity for Tampa's second goal.

Not only did Hedman directly effect offense, but he managed to keep Penguins from scoring at all times he was on the ice. The only Penguins goal occurred when Hedman was in the penalty box for tripping Conor Sheary, at 18:49 of the 2nd.

What will an increased emphasis on slowing down Hedman mean for the Bolts? It means that other defensemen will get proportionally less attention, and will be afforded the opportunity to ramp up their own playmaking. One other mitigating factor is Anton Stralman's return, although the organization is cautious about setting a date for it.

In short, game 2 will be very different, and it will be interesting to see how the Bolts respond.