It’s a good thing that Victor Hedman is up for the Norris and not the Lady Byng.
Looking back at our game recap for Game 3 of the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New Jersey Devils first-round series, Raw Charge made exactly zero mentions of Victor Hedman’s controversial and uncalled cup-check to Nico Hischier. Reading back through the recap, the more important penalty was on Mikhail Sergachev, a call for elbowing Blake Coleman in the head, even though no concussion spotter pulled Coleman out of the game to tend to his supposed injury, and he was back on the ice minutes later.
But back to the lower-body area.
Hedman’s tap to Hischier’s groin occurred in the opening minutes of the third period, when the Bolts were on the power play. Hischier paused in front of the Bolts’ bench to clear the puck, but did it a scant second after the play was whistled dead.
Hedman clearly took offense at what he considered an unnecessary shot toward Andrei Vasilevskiy after the play was stopped, so his first reaction was to send his stick up and into the groin of Hischier. Hischier, taken by surprise, doubled over and fell on his tush on the ice. The officials, whistling a second time by then, skated up and separated the players, but did not apparently catch the quick cup tap, or did and didn’t think it was that important in the overall scheme of the game.
”And that smarts as he gets it in the ‘vulnerable area’ with the stick, right between the legs,” said a broadcaster. The camera panned immediately to the bench, where Hedman spouted off a few more words to Hischier, and Jon Cooper did his level best to look like he saw nothing, nothing at all, NOTHING TO SEE HERE, REFS.
The lack of a call didn’t really impact the game. Tampa Bay still lost by enough of a margin that giving up another power play goal wouldn’t have mattered much in the grand scheme of things. Despite that, after the game, Hedman decided that his swift cup check wasn’t that mature. It did, however, lead to an interesting phenomenon: every time Hedman touched the puck in New Jersey, the arena full of Devils fans booed.
Victor Hedman on getting booed every time he touched by #NJDevils fans. “I probably deserved it.” Says he apologized to Nico after game for hitting him in groin. “Doesn’t belong in this game. Immature play by me.”— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) April 20, 2018
My first thought after reading Joe’s tweet was, “Good for Victor. Mature of him to go apologize after he let his temper get the best of him. But boy, I hope he puts the lid back on it for the rest of playoffs.” Do you guys remember Matt Larkin’s Hockey News article from January that talked about Hedman’s temper? This part of the article surfaced in my memory after this particular incident:
OK, so the truth is Hedman hams it up when people provoke him. The stick throwing and mock tantrums are his way of entertaining his teammates, who love him for it. But you know the expression, “There’s a grain of truth in every joke”? Well, it applies here. Hedman’s as good a sport as anyone, and he gives it to his teammates just as well as they give it to him, but the teasing comes from somewhere. He’s legitimately a hothead, and his teammates know how to set him off.
Did Hedman figure it out enough to play a mature game in game 4? Yes, he did. He led the team in TOI at 27:58, he took no penalties, and he was on the ice for two goals. The Tampa Bay Lightning rely so heavily on Victor Hedman that his apology is a good sign -- if he knows where his temper can lead, and knows to apologize when he’s out of line, then he’s on the right track to be the backbone that we need for a deep playoff run.
It’s never good to give the other team a power play, especially in playoffs.
But as for the rest of this round, let the Devils fans boo. At least Hedman is not licking anyone’s face...