TAMPA — The best thing for Victor Hedman would have been for the Lightning to play on Sunday.
That way the defenseman could have immediately put behind him Saturday's horror-show 5-0 loss to the Bruins in which he was on the ice for every goal.
You don't often see players at minus-5 in a game, and with a four-day break, Hedman must wait for Thursday against the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks for redemption.
That is why Monday's practice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum was so important.
"He was arguably the best player in practice," coach Jon Cooper said. "He was outstanding. He had jump. He was moving. I like his response so far."
"I want to rebound," Hedman said. "I'm going to practice hard leading up to those games because how you practice is how you play."
Actually, Hedman, 22, has played quite well with three assists in eight games, eight blocked shots, 11 takeaways and only two giveaways while averaging 19:56 of ice time. In his first seven games he was plus-3.
Cooper talked up Hedman's ability to move the puck out of the defensive zone, that he anticipates correctly when to jump into the offensive flow and that "he's really used his speed to push teams back."
In the Boston game, no one played well. Defenseman Sami Salo and right wing Teddy Purcell were both minus-3. Center Steven Stamkos won just four of 13 faceoffs. Goaltender Ben Bishop was pulled.
But it was hard to ignore Hedman's minus-5 as it has been reached or exceeded only 49 times in the league since the start of the 2005-06 season, according to hockeyreference.com.
Give Hedman credit, though, as he spent Sunday — a team off day — watching video of the game to see what he did wrong.
"You can't just put it behind you," he said. "You have to take a big look at yourself and what caused the problems. You have to look at it and learn from it and learn from your mistakes,"
What did Hedman see?
On David Krejci's goal, 1:32 into the game, "I have to be stronger in front of the net," he said.
On Chris Kelly's goal that made it 4-0 in the second period, "I was caught puck-watching" and was beaten to the crease.
That said, plus/minus — in which you get a plus for being on the ice when your team scores and a minus when you are on the ice for an opponent goal — is a tricky stat because it does not track fault or credit.
"Unfortunately for Heddy," Cooper said, "and I love the kid — he's a tremendous talent and he's been great for us this year — he might have deserved the minus-5. He was just on the wrong end of a lot of plays. Some of them were unlucky breaks, but some of them he created his own mess."
But given how well the 6-foot-6 Hedman has played, the belief is the Boston game was an aberration.
"Just throw that in the garbage," Salo advised his defensive partner, and added, "He's been moving well, blocking shots and playing key minutes. We're fortunate to have him on our team."
"I want to be consistent and make sure the last game was one bad game," Hedman said. "You can have bad games but you have to take a hard look and make sure it doesn't happen again."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.
Defenseman Victor Hedman was the seventh Lightning player with a minus-5 rating in a game (though it was the ninth occurrence), according to hockeyreference.com:
|Victor Hedman||Oct. 19, 2013||Bruins||L, 5-0|
|Chris Gratton||Jan. 24, 2008||Senators||L, 8-4|
|Paul Ranger||Dec. 13, 2007||Flames||L, 9-6|
|Filip Kuba||Dec. 13, 2007||Flames||L, 9-6|
|Ryan Craig||Jan. 7, 2006||at Bruins||L, 6-3|
|Bryan Marchment||Jan. 14, 1998||Islanders||L, 7-1|
|Roman Hamrlik||Oct. 24, 1996||Senators||L, 5-2|
|Chris Gratton||Jan. 6, 1996||at Canucks||L, 9-2|
|Roman Hamrlik||Jan. 4, 1993||at Canucks||L, 7-0|