Do you remember Pandora? For those of you that don’t, Pandora was a fairly popular music service about 10-15 years ago that worked like a curated radio station. You could seed a playlist with songs or an artist, and Pandora would try to pick songs with similar tags to play for you. You could thumbs up and thumbs down songs. If you gave it a thumbs up, then that song would be added to the station you created and would influence future songs. If you gave a thumbs down, that song wouldn’t play again and it’s tags would be less featured in the future.
For a while, it became a joke within one of my friend groups when we were hanging out at a game store or a tournament to post a sign on the computer that said “Taylor Swift Appreciation Station.” This came from Pandora where they would give you pre-made stations based on a particular artist. And who doesn’t love Taylor Swift?
So let this post and the comment section be an Appreciation Station for Victor Hedman and his play for the Tampa Bay Lightning during these playoffs.
In Rare Air
Through 19 playoff games, Hedman has scored nine goals, six assists, and fifteen points while playing 26:31 per game.
While his points total isn’t record setting, nor is it leading the NHL among defensemen (he’s currently fifth), his goal total has been exceptional. He’s tied with Brayden Point for the team lead in goals. Seven of the nine have been at even strength, one in overtime, and two have been game winners. Scoring nine goals in the playoffs though has put Hedman into rare company.
He is tied for the fourth most goals by a defenseman in a single playoff run all-time. One goal will take him into sole possession of fourth place. Three more will tie the record. It seems like a stretch that he could tie or break the record with just one series to go, but it’s not impossible either.
His 9 goals currently have him tied with two Hall of Famers; Brad Park who did it in 1978 with the Boston Bruins and Bobby Orr who did it in 1970 also with the Boston Bruins. Of the three players ahead of him, two are Hall of Famers and one is a semi-active player. Brian Leetch scored 11 for the New York Rangers in 1993-94 and Dustin Byfuglien also scored 11 in 2010 for the Chicago Blackhawks. The record is 12 goals by Hall of Famer Paul Coffey in 1985 with the Edmonton Oilers. Of these five players, only Park accomplished it in a losing effort as the Bruins fell to the juggernaut Montreal Canadiens in the Final.
Lifting Up Partners
Over the past five or six seasons, we’ve seen Hedman ascend into the top echelon of defenseman. But even when you’re one of the best defensemen in the world, you can’t carry every defense partner you might have. They still represent a weakness on the ice and Hedman needs the right kind of partner to complement him. They don’t need to be as good as him at any one thing, but they do need to be good at the right things so that he can go do what he does on the ice.
In the past, he’s had some stretches with Jake Dotchin and Andrej Sustr at his side. Neither of those partners worked very well. He had a stretch with Anton Stralman, who was an ideal partner for him, and he was incredible. This year it’s been particularly astonishing how good he has been with Zach Bogosian at his side.
They have played together in 18 games during the playoffs for 147 minutes and Bogosian is Hedman’s most common partner. Together, they have a 63.67% Corsi For and are at 61.17% xGF. The Lightning have scored six goals when they’re on the ice together and have allowed... zero...zilch...nada...nothing.
So what is it about Bogosian that has made him so good next to Hedman? For one thing, Bogosian is a very smart player with a lot of experience in the NHL. He has 644 games played in the NHL and has almost 14,000 minutes of ice time. He was a third overall pick in 2008 behind Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty. The other thing is he’s kept it fairly simple. He will pinch in in the offensive zone, since that is what the defensemen are supposed to do in the Lightning’s system. But he’s done it smartly without getting caught very often. He’s been decisive with the puck, moving it quickly either to Hedman or up to the forwards when breaking out. He’s also quick at the point to either take a shot or move the puck down into the zone to help keep him from being caught out.
Simply put, Bogosian has a combination of the right skills and attitude to just be a seamless partner for Hedman.
Let’s just take a moment and appreciate that flow. This picture is from February and it’s only gotten longer and more majestic since then. He is a Norse God. Our Norse God.