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What does the loss of Victor Hedman mean for the Lightning?

Tampa Bay played its second game without its No. 1 defenseman on Tuesday
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77)  takes to the ice with his team for warm ups before taking on the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena on Thursday, March 5, 2020 in Tampa.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) takes to the ice with his team for warm ups before taking on the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena on Thursday, March 5, 2020 in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Mar. 11, 2020

The Lightning are still without Victor Hedman, who Jon Cooper calls “one of the straws that stirs the drink.”

The team’s No. 1 defenseman was hurt in Saturday’s game against the Bruins, though he didn’t leave the bench. He sat out both Sunday’s game against the Red Wings and Tuesday’s game in Toronto.

What does it mean for the Lightning to lose Hedman? A lot.

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“Pull out what I would consider, every single year, a top three defenseman in the league, that can dictate the way a game goes,” Cooper said. “Victor Hedman can dictate a game.”

He’s consistently the Lightning’s leader in time on ice. He typically quarterbacks the top power-play unit. He’s the epitome of two-way defenseman, who can get involved offensively but is responsible on the back end.

Hedman is the third active defenseman to score at least 10 goals in seven straight seasons. Nashville’s Roman Josi and San Jose’s Brent Burns are the others.

There’s no such thing as good timing for an injury, but that the Lightning got Ryan McDonagh back in the lineup on Sunday goes a long way toward softening the blow of Hedman’s absence.

The Lightning appear to have dodged possible injuries to three more defensemen on Tuesday.

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Mikhail Sergachev blocked a shot up high and was slow to get up, but he skated to the bench on his own and immediately returned to play.

Then in the second period, Erik Cernak blocked a shot and had to be helped off the ice, putting very little weight on his left leg. He also returned to play.

Later in that period, in the least severe instance, Kevin Shattenkirk took a stick to the head. He was slow to get up, but skated off on his own and also immediately returned.

Though Cernak played the rest of the game, he may still be on injury watch. Blocked shots can cause tricky injuries that become apparent later, once a player takes the gear off.

“Trust me, everyone around the league is not losing sleep over us losing a defenseman,” Cooper said after the game.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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