Defenseman Victor Hedman need some time to develop into a player worthy of the expectations thrust upon him when he was taken with the second overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry, but he’s certainly been a big part of the Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.
In fact, Hedman has been playing at an elite level for a little while now and it’s gotten to the point where it’s encouraged of a reexamining of Sweden’s 2014 Olympic roster decisions. He was left off that team as they went with a defensive core of Alexander Edler, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Erik Karlsson, Niklas Kronwall, Johnny Oduya, and Henrik Tallinder. That group is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but was there really no room in there for Hedman?
Swedish coach Par Marts was the one to reject Hedman and he doesn’t regret that decision, per Aftonbladet. As he pointed out, it’s easy to criticize in hindsight and he argued that Hedman wouldn’t have gotten the ice time he deserved if he was put on the roster, in part because they leaned towards the defensive pairings in Detroit (Ericsson-Kronwall) and Chicago (Hjalmarsson-Oduya). At the same time though, plenty of star players go into the Olympics with the understanding that they won’t get the minutes that they’re accustomed to.
“I was surprised that he didn’t make the team,” Blackhawks defenseman Hjalmarsson said during Tuesday’s press availability. “Obviously he’s a good player.”
Hedman admitted to being disappointed, but he said it wasn’t difficult for him to switch his focus to Tampa Bay’s next game after finding out he wouldn’t make the team. Certainly he has plenty to be pleased about at this point as he took another step forward in 2014-15 and needs just two more wins to win the Cup.
Marts did leave the door open to him reaching out to Hedman over the summer. The fact that he didn’t make the 2014 team was eyebrow raising, but it will be a far bigger story if NHL players go to the 2018 Olympics and Hedman is once again left off the roster.
Since February 9th, the Arizona Coyotes have only earned one victory, a 3-2 shootout decision over Vancouver on March 5. The Coyotes came close to stealing another game away from the Canucks, but in the end Vancouver earned a 3-1 victory.
Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom made his first start since his “nightmare” game against San Jose on March 3 and managed to turn aside 24 of 25 shots. The lone Arizona goal came from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who now leads all defensemen with 20 markers.
That goal tied the game at 1-1 late in the first period and it remained an even contest until 16:47 of the third when Vancouver blueliner Alexander Edler collected the game-winner with 3:13 minutes remaining in regulation time.
Arizona was never great this season, but the Coyotes haven’t even won a game in anything other than a shootout since Feb. 3. They’ve also dropped eight straight contests, bringing them down to 21-44-8 this season.
That collapse has resulted in Arizona challenging Buffalo for last place in the NHL and the guarantee of getting one of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. The 29th spot is significantly less desirable because you only get a 13.5% chance of winning the first pick (presumably Connor McDavid) in the lottery and it becomes possible that you will end up moving down to the third slot, which would put McDavid and Eichel out of reach.
This win has given the Canucks a six-point lead over Los Angeles in the battle for a playoff spot. With just three weeks remaining in the regular season, that’s a very strong position for Vancouver to be in.
The Winnipeg Jets traveled to Evander Kane’s hometown of Vancouver for tonight’s game against the Canucks, but he wasn’t on the ice as head coach Paul Maurice decided to list him as a healthy scratch. Without Kane, Winnipeg suffered a 3-2 overtime loss to Vancouver.
For a while it looked like a broken stick would be the difference as Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler missed a chance to clear the puck with his team down a man for that reason. Andrew Ladd capitalized on the situation by claiming the puck and feeding it to Bryan Little, who fired it past goaltender Eddie Lack.
Forward Ronalds Kenins, 23, stepped up in his third career game though to score the game-tying goal. The contest went to overtime, but Vancouver only needed 36 seconds to finish off the Jets, courtesy of a Luca Sbisa marker.
“The puck was bouncing around a bit, but we stuck to our game,” Sbisa said, per the team’s Twitter feed. “We can’t play like we’re afraid to lose.”
It’s a key victory for Vancouver as it provides the squad with a four-point cushion in the playoff race after Colorado and Minnesota won tonight. It also moves the Canucks from the second Wild Card seed to the third spot in the Pacific Division, ahead of the Calgary Flames.
The Jets have now lost five straight, although they still have a six-point edge in the battle for a postseason berth.
Slumping Jets trying not to panic
With Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa out indefinitely with a hand injury that requires surgery, some might wonder if the team should explore the trade market. GM Jim Benning is opting to stay put, instead.
Benning said the Canucks are “not going to go out and get anybody” following that injury, noting that Frank Corrado has been impressive in Bieksa’s absence, the Vancouver Sun’s Iain MacIntyre reports.
Corrado, 21, scored Vancouver’s lone goal in a 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. Bieksa, 33, generated nine points in 45 games while averaging 21:16 time on ice per contest.
While Alexander Edler easily leads Canucks defensemen in ice time, Bieksa came in second, so it would seem like a substantial loss on paper.
Either way, Vancouver faces a golden opportunity after the All-Star break. While they face some challenging opponents (and struggling ones, like Minnesota and Buffalo), six straight home games signify a chance to strengthen the Canucks’ position in the Pacific Division and Western Conference in general.
Apparently they feel properly equipped to do so, even without a trade to bolster their defense.
Steven Stamkos scored twice and picked up an assist as the Tampa Bay Lightning handed the Vancouver Canucks their first loss of the young season, 4-2, Saturday night.
The game not only halted the Canucks three-game win streak, it also snapped the franchise’s sellout streak of 474 consecutive games at Rogers Arena.
Stamkos scored on the Lightning’s first shot on goal 53 seconds in, his fourth of the season.
Then after Chris Higgins tied it 1-1, Stamkos picked up his second of the night putting home a one-handed Ryan Callahan feed backhand past Eddie Lack.
Callahan and Alex Killorn had the other Tampa goals while Alexander Edler had the Canucks second goal.
The win came at a price For Tampa as defenseman Victor Hedman left the game in the second period with an upper body injury. He is expected to miss the remaining four games on the Tampa road trip.