Victor Hedman took the high road when it came to Andrew Shaw’s alleged bite in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, saying he admires Shaw as a player and would like to have him on his team. But as a premier defenseman, Hedman has some bite in his game, too.
It’s pretty clear he was, even though Hedman will not come out and say it. After the fracas with Shaw, Hedman came back to the bench and it does not take an expert lip reader to surmise that Hedman said to teammate Brendan Morrow, “He bit me.”
“Yeah, you know, everyone who watched that can obviously see what I said,” Hedman said. “If you saw that, then I don’t have to say anymore.”
For his part, Shaw didn’t exactly deny biting Hedman. In fact, when asked about it after the Blackhawks practice Friday, Shaw basically pleaded no-contest. “We’re going to focus on playing hockey and the next game,” Shaw’s stock answer was to the repeated queries on whether or not he bit Hedman.
No, Hedman didn’t receive a tetanus shot. And yes, he has pretty much put the incident behind him, saying a lot of things happen on the ice. The league looked into the incident and could see find no conclusive evidence that Shaw took a bite out of Hedman. In fact, instead of accusing Shaw of on-ice skullduggery, Hedman was praising the way Shaw plays and said he’d love to have a player like Shaw on his team. The best part, though, was when he said you like a player like that, “who can get under people’s skin.” Yeah, he actually used those words.
“He’s a great player,” Hedman said of Shaw. “He’s a big presence in front of the net and he’s a tough player to play against. And I really like the style he plays. He’s been important for them and has played a big role for their team. He stood up for (Patrick) Kane and I stood up for my goalie.”
Assuming there will be no further incidents involving biting, the attention for the series should now shift to what Hedman is doing on the ice for the Lightning. In his sixth NHL season, Hedman has become a stud at both ends of the ice. Had he not broken his finger five games into the season, he probably would have put together a Norris Trophy-caliber campaign. Along with defense partner and countryman Anton Stralman, the two did an outstanding job of keeping Jonathan Toews and Kane in check in Game 1.
The same player who couldn’t make the cut for the Swedish Olympic team 16 months ago has emerged as one of the top defensemen for a country that is producing them at a prodigious rate. Looking to the World Cup in 2016, the Swedes, led by Hedman, will be loaded on defense. Along with Hedman and Stralman, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya are patrolling the blueline on the other side of the ice in the Stanley Cup final. Then there’s Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Arizona Coyotes and John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars. The list goes on…Alexander Edler, Niklas Kronwall, Hampus Lindholm, Jonas Brodin, Tobias Enstrom…
“It’s awesome,” Hedman said. “It’s unbelievable to see how many (Swedish) defenseman are coming into the league right now. (The World Cup) is 15 months away, so I’m not too focused on it right now, but there’s a lot of talent, a lot of veteran guys who have been around for a long time who are still playing some really good hockey. It’s a lot of fun to see.”
It’s entirely possible that Hedman, who didn’t make the Swedish team in Sochi, and Ekman-Larsson, who was on the roster but didn’t see one second of ice time, could be the leaders on the blueline for Sweden in 2016.
“It feels like stepping on to the ice, I feel confident in my game, I feel confident on both ends of the ice, and that’s kind of the way I want to play,” Hedman said earlier in the playoffs. “Last year was a big step in the right direction, and I’m trying to build on that this year. It’s obviously a lot easier when we play with such great players and guys we have on this team right now. It’s easier to take my game to the next level.”