The Stanley Cup finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks are tied 2-2, and the story so far has been how different play is when Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman is on the ice. The Lightning are 2-0 in the finals when Hedman gets on the score sheet and 0-2 when he does not. The difference when Hedman is on the ice versus when he is on the bench is huge.
Hedman helps control play
With Hedman on the ice in the finals, the Lightning have generated 38 more shot attempts and 18 more scoring chances than the Blackhawks, per war-on-ice.com.
In the series, shot attempts are 213-205 in favor of the Blackhawks. With Hedman on the ice, the Lightning are generating 60 percent of the total shots. When he is not on the ice, it's just 39 percent.
Contributions mean wins
The Lightning are 9-1 in the postseason when Hedman registers a point and 5-9 when he doesn’t. During the regular season, the Lightning were 17-5-1 when Hedman had at least one point.
In the playoffs, the Lightning are scoring 4.1 goals per game and allowing 2.2 when Hedman registers a point. When he doesn’t get a point, they are scoring 1.6 goals per game and allowing 3.6.
Breaking down key plays
Roughly five minutes into Game 3, Hedman showed why his time on the ice has been so impactful. After the Lightning retrieved the puck from the corner, Hedman took control behind his own net. After reading the ice, Hedman made a stretch pass to Ryan Callahan, who received it at the opposite blue line, skated in and put in a slap shot for the game’s first goal.
Later in the game, with the score tied at 2 and just over three minutes remaining, the Lightning began a breakout from their own zone. Hedman received a pass from his own blue line and skated into the offensive zone, maneuvered around Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook and made a centering pass to Cedric Paquette, who scored into a wide-open net.
Is Hedman elite?
Lightning assistant coach Rick Bowness was asked on Thursday about Hedman. Bowness responded by saying his “growth started last year and has continued this year. ... Hedman is an elite defenseman. No question about it.”
So far, the playoff numbers bear that out.
When Hedman has been on the ice in the playoffs, the Lightning have generated 63 more scoring chances than they have allowed, a differential 21 chances ahead of the next-best defenseman. The Lightning have a plus-13 goal differential when Hedman is on the ice in the playoffs, tied for second among defensemen.
To further solidify Hedman as an elite defenseman, consider his play against Chicago captain Jonathan Toews.
Hedman has on been on the ice for 61 percent of Toews’ ice time in the series (51:08) and has a plus-16 shot-attempt differential in that time. Toews’ 41.3 SAT (team percentage of shots with the player on the ice) against Hedman is nearly 20 percent below his season average (60.4 percent).