“He’s the best _____ in the league.” It’s just something teammates say, right?
Sure, and the Lightning throw it out there often, especially about Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy. But they have some evidence to back it up.
Hedman is up for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the defenseman of the year, and Vasilevskiy for the Vezina Trophy, which goes to the top goaltender. And it’s neither’s first time.
Vasilevskiy is the defending Vezina winner and has been a finalist three years in a row. Hedman has been nominated for the Norris four straight years and won in 2018. Both awards are voted on — the Norris by the Professional Hockey Writers Association and the Vezina by the general managers — at the end of the regular season.
Those two awards, along with the Hart Trophy (most valuable player), Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) and Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player, voted by the players), will be presented on Monday. The 30-minute show airs on NBCSN at 6:30 p.m., before the Lightning play Game 2 against the Stars on the same network at 8 p.m.
“When you’re getting nominated year in, year out for these awards, it definitely means something,” Killorn said. “You see certain guys that get nominated have a good season, but when you’re able to do it consistently, it shows a ton. It shows you that these are guys that are going to be great players for a long time, and they’ve been so important to us in these playoffs.”
In the case of both Hedman and Vasilevskiy, their reputations precede them. They are players other teams come in aware of and preparing for.
Once you’ve won an award, it’s easier to be nominated again — but it’s also earned.
Vasilevskiy led league goalies in wins two years in a row. He regularly keeps the Lightning in games and has been known to steal a win or two. His particular mix of athleticism and size keeps shooters on their toes, as he can pull out jaw-dropping saves on shots that seemed to be going into the net.
Killorn calls Vasilevskiy the most competitive person he’s ever met, which is saying something for a professional athlete.
Hedman has been one of the league’s top-scoring defensemen for four years. His 6-foot-6, 223-pound frame belies his skating abilities, which make him hard for forwards to get around en route to the net.
Defenseman Luke Schenn called Hedman incredible and “an absolute horse” to be able to be in every play offensively and defensively, making great plays on both sides of the puck.
“You don’t truly appreciate someone’s talent until they’re doing it in front of you night in and night out,” said forward Blake Coleman, who joined the team in February. “Both those guys are extremely consistent, extremely competitive. It’s how they’re built. They definitely drive the team, and when those two are on their game, the team’s typically on their game.”