Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning's Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman anchor Sweden's defense at World Cup

Sweden's Victor Hedman, center, celebrates his goal with teammates Anton Stralman, right, and Carl Hagelin against Russia during second period World Cup of Hockey action in Toronto, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP) MDB07

Sweden's Victor Hedman, center, celebrates his goal with teammates Anton Stralman, right, and Carl Hagelin against Russia during second period World Cup of Hockey action in Toronto, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP) MDB07

TORONTO — Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman are nearly inseparable on the ice, the two Swedes anchoring the Lightning's top defensive pairing the past couple seasons.

So it is fitting that Hedman and Stralman, partners again for Sweden in the World Cup of Hockey, have adjacent rooms in their Toronto hotel.

Stralman, 30, took advantage of that Sunday morning, popping by to razz Hedman, 25, a huge Manchester United soccer fan, for the club's 3-1 loss to Watford.

"That fueled my energy for this game," Hedman said with a grin.

It worked wonders. Hedman had a monster 22-minute performance, including scoring what turned out to be the game-winner, to lift Sweden to a 2-1 victory over Russia in their tournament opener at the Air Canada Center.

"It's an unreal feeling," Hedman said.

It's one Hedman has never had before. Having been snubbed by Sweden for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Hedman, like Stralman, is relishing his first chance at best-on-best hockey on the biggest stage; Hedman last wore his country's jersey at the 2012 world championships, Stralman at the 2009 worlds.

"It's always been my biggest dream, to represent my country," Stralman said.

The two are key cogs on a loaded blueline, which shut out the high-powered Russians for 59 minutes, 33 seconds Sunday. That kind of defense is why the Swedes are considered formidable championship contenders, even against the heavily favored Canadians.

It was Stralman who helped thwart Alex Ovechkin's tying goal with seven seconds left. Ovechkin, who had pulled Russia to within 2-1 with 33 seconds to go, swatted a loose puck with his glove near the left post. But Stralman managed to impede Ovechkin enough so this generation's top scorer couldn't get his stick on the puck before it went in. The goal was overturned by review. "I wasn't worried," Stralman said.

Stralman is feeling, and looking, like his old self. He admits he wasn't at his best in the Stanley Cup playoffs, when he returned from a broken leg for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final. Stralman was a minus-two in six games as the Lightning lost in seven to the Penguins.

"My leg was still broken," Stralman said. "It wasn't great. It was solid enough to play with, but it's always hard. You miss two months and jump into a conference finals, it's not an easy task. Given the circumstances, I gave it all I had."

The Lightning gave Hedman an eight-year, $63 million extension July 1. The 6-foot-6 Swede wasted no time in signing the first day he was eligible, one year removed from unrestricted free agency. Hedman, unlike fellow franchise cornerstone Steven Stamkos, won't have to deal with lingering contract questions this season. That kind of peace of mind should help Hedman propel even further into the conversation as one of the league's top defensemen; he was sixth in the Norris Trophy voting last season.

Sunday provided yet another reminder why.

"Hedman is as horse, you saw it (Sunday)," Sweden coach Rickard Gronborg said. "He played all kind of situations, and now I know why he's so highly regarded. I knew that before, but now he's proven to everyone back at home in Sweden that this is how good he is."

Contact Joe Smith at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Lightning's Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman anchor Sweden's defense at World Cup 09/18/16 [Last modified: Sunday, September 18, 2016 9:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Erasmo Ramirez continues to deliver for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Pitching coach Jim Hickey has a saying he uses with the Rays pitchers: "Don't let them hit the ball. Make them hit the ball."

    HUG IT OUT: Souza, back, celebrates his two-run homer with a congratulatory hug from Rays catcher Jesus Sucre.
  2. Tom Jones: Rays made right move sending Blake Snell to minors

    The Heater

    tom jones' two cents

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Blake Snell’s struggles on the mound were only one of the reasons the Rays sent him to the minors; some other red flags existed. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    Rookie RHP Ryne Stanek has had his early struggles, but Wednesday he showed his high-octane potential, working around a one-out walk to strike out the mighty Mike Trout (on a 98.4 mph fastball) and legendary Albert Pujols (98.7), both swinging.

  4. Rays journal: More bullpen changes as Diego Moreno heads to DL

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays bullpen has another new look.

    Rays reliever Diego Moreno, pitching Sunday against the Yankees, heads the DL with shoulder bursitis.
  5. ACC baseball tournament: FSU beats Notre Dame on 12th-inning HR

    Colleges

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jackson Lueck hit his second two-run home run of the game in the 12th inning, lifting Florida State past Notre Dame 5-3 on Wednesday at a rainy ACC baseball tournament.

    Florida State outfielder Jackson Lueck (2) connects for a game-winning home run in the 12th inning during game 4 of the 2017 ACC Baseball Tournament in Louisville, Ky., Wednesday, May 24, 2017. (Wade Payne/theACC.com via AP)