Victor Hedman thriving in big-time minutes
Defenseman Victor Hedman said before this series he wants to play more minutes.
And the Lightning have granted him his wish, Hedman logging 30:02 in Game 4, just the third time in his career he's played over 30 minutes.
"He's our horse back there," coach Jon Cooper said. "I don't think we're the only team in the league that plays guys that amount of minutes, especially with (Anton) Stralman out, Hedman has to carry more of the load. You look at some of the gifted players in the league that can do this, the Ryan Suters, the Duncan Keiths, the Drew Doughtys, for some reason they've got another oxygenn tank hidden in their bodies somewhere they can pull it off. Heddy is one of those guys, once again he was really big for us."
Hedman averaged 23 minutes during the season, only six times over 26, the Lightning managing his minutes. But Hedman played 28:56 in Game 1 and 26 minutes in Game 3. The only other games he's played 30 were overtime games, Game 2 against Montreal in the playoffs last year (career-high 31:32) and 30:45 Mar 12, 2015 against Boston.
Hedman said the key is hydrating between games and shortening his shifts, keeping them between 40-50 seconds if he can. His average shift was 64 seconds Tuesday.
"I feel like I can play my game," Hedman said. "Obviously it's a little more challenging, but it's something I said earlier I want to do."
While others like Suters - and former Red Wings Hall of Famer Niklas Lidstrom - played more of an efficient game, Hedman often joins the offensive rush and plays 200 feet.
"That's what makes it even more remarkable that he has the ability to do that," Cooper said. "He can be extremely active all over the ice and still finds a way to get back out there. The Suters, the Lidstrom was like that too. Heddy uses his legs, that's part of his hgame is being to close gaps and get up ice. It's crazy that he can play 30 minutes a night and be that effective."