Tag:Victor Hedman
Posted on: November 29, 2011 4:06 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 4:30 pm

Guy Boucher knows how to use M-A Bergeron

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the way the Tampa Bay Lightning take advanatge of Marc-Andre Bergeron's offensive ability.

By: Adam Gretz

A quick look at the top-scoring defensemen in the NHL this season and the second name on the list, as of Tuesday afternoon, is Marc-Andre Bergeron of the Tampa Bay Lightning, currently with 19 points, trailing only the 21 that belong to Ottawa's Erik Karlsson. There are two things, to me, that stand out about Bergeron being in that spot: First, he plays significantly fewer minutes than the other defensemen near the top of the list. Second: His name isn't one that's usually near the top.

Whether or not he remains there for the rest of the season remains to be seen, but he's not only been one of the leading scorers among defensemen across the league, he's also been one of Tampa Bay's top scorers, regardless of position, and a lot of that has to do with the way head coach Guy Boucher utilizes him and takes advantage of what he does well, while also minimizing what he does not do well.

Every player in the NHL has strengths and weaknesses, and Bergeron's are easy to spot every time he steps on the ice. He has a heavy slap shot (Boucher actually talked about it at the Lightning's website on Tuesday) and is a threat to score from the blue line, while he also struggles mightily in his own end of the ice. In all honesty, he's probably the closest thing there is in the NHL to having a fourth forward on the ice without actually putting a fourth forward on the ice.

After spending the 2009-10 season with the Montreal Canadiens, Bergeron was not re-signed by the team and spent most of last season as a free agent before signing with the Lightning in January. He ended up playing 23 regular season games for them, as well as 14 of their 18 playoff games, scoring four goals and recording seven assists in a limited role, mainly in offensive situations and on the power play. 

Since joining the team mid-way through last season, it seems as if the Lightning have made sure to put him in situations where his skills can be maximized: the power play, obviously, while also starting as many of his 5-on-5 shifts as they can as far away from his own net as they can get, while also sending him out against the other team's weakest competition.

For the season, he's a plus-four, tops among all Tampa Bay defensemen, and has been on the ice for 14 even strength goals against, the second-lowest total on the team. That doesn't necessarily mean he's been the best, or one of the best, "defensive" players on the team. It actually says more about the way Boucher and the Tampa Bay coaching staff have used him, and the situations they've put him in.

We know he can score on the power play. It's something he's done throughout his career for every team he's spent time with. But let's take a look at how he's been utilized during even-strength situations in recent years.

(The table below looks at the following over the past five seasons: Percentage of shifts started in the offensive zone (Ozone%), total offensive zone starts (Ozone), Neutral Zone Starts (Nzone), Defensive Zone Starts (Dzone), Quality of Competition (Qualcomp) and the number of even-strength points he's produced. Data via Behindthenet.ca)

Marc-Andre Bergeron's Even-Strength Usage
Team Season Ozone% Ozone Nzone Dzone QualComp Points Games
TB Lightning 2011-12 69.6% 135 111 59 -.152 12 23
TB Lightning 2010-11 69.2% 110 51 49 -.046 5 23
Montreal Canadiens 2009-10 54.6% 227 207 189 -.078 12 60
Minnesota Wild 2008-09 66.8% 399 251 198 -.040 14 72
Anaheim/Islanders 2007-08 50.2% 167 166 246 -.065 4 54

Obviously, none of his recent teams have asked him to play against the other teams best players, while most have gone out of their way to hide his defensive struggles by starting him in the offensive zone. No team has taken it to the extreme that Tampa Bay has, with only the Minnesota Wild in 2008-09 coming close. The one exception here is the '07-08 Islanders who gave him more defensive zone starts than any other team over the past five years, and it's not a coincidence that was the year he finished as a minus-14, still the worst mark of his career. 

By starting nearly 70 percent of his even-strength shifts in the offensive zone Bergeron is far and away the top defensemen in the NHL in that area. Of the 127 defensemen that have played at least 20 games this season, the only ones that are starting even 60 percent of their shifts in the offensive zone are Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom, Montreal's Yannick Weber and Vancouver's Alexander Edler, while only Sheldon Brookbank and Andreas Lilja have played against a lower quality of competition.

In other words: He's playing some seriously sheltered minutes, and that also can have an impact on the other defensemen on the team.

While Bergeron is getting some of the most favorable matchups in the NHL, his teammates Victor Hedman and Eric Brewer, are drawing some of the least favorable matchups, currently owning the highest QualCOMP numbers in the NHL (again, among defensemen that have played at least 20 games) while also starting, by far, the fewest shifts in the offensive zone. That might help explain, at least in part, why Bergeron is a plus-four, while the two better players defensively are currently a minus-five and minus-seven on the season.

Bergeron is a flawed player defensively, but he has value if he's used properly, and so far Boucher has demonstrated that he knows exactly where, and when, to put him on the ice to take advantage of what he does the best: help score goals.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 13, 2011 8:52 pm

Video: Victor Hedman's own goal

By: Adam Gretz

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman had a first period to forget against the New York Islanders on Thursday night, as he was on the ice for three New York Islanders goals in his first seven minutes of ice-time. And the first one, a tally by John Tavares, the player chosen two spots ahead of him during the 2009 draft, came as a result of Hedman accidentally smacking a bouncing puck with his hand past goaltender Dwayne Roloson.

Here's the video:

Anytime we see a player putting the puck in his own net it's easy to think back to Marc Bergevin, then a member of the St. Louis Blues, accidentally throwing a loose puck into his own net during a playoff game. This one didn't come in as big of a game, but it's still a play Hedman would no doubt love to have back.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 10, 2011 3:53 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 4:18 pm

Ohlund could miss 4-6 weeks following surgery

By: Adam Gretz

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund opened the season on injured reserve due to a knee injury, and according to multiple reports, is set to have both knees scoped and could miss the next four-to-six weeks.

Ohlund, 35, joined the Lightning prior to the 2009-10 season when he signed a seven-year, $25 million contract.

Two years in and it's looking to be a disappointing investment for Tampa Bay, at least from an offensive perspective, as his production has steadily decreased over the past couple of years. Add in the combination of him turning 35 last month with the fact he needs to have some work done on both of his knees and it isn't exactly encouraging.

In his two years with the Lightning he's yet to score a goal in 139 games, while recording just 18 assists. By comparison, in his final year with Vancouver during the 2008-09 season, the year before he signed with the Lightning, he scored six goals and was credited with 19 assists, and had scored at least nine goals in each of the previous four seasons. One of the biggest differences in his role with the Lightning is that he's been seeing significantly less time on the power play in recent years, but overall there's still been a decline.

Going all the way back to the 2007-08 season and his point-per-game average has followed a steady downward trend: 2007-08 (.040), 2008-09 (.030), 2009-10 (.019), 2010-11 (.007).

Still, even with the decline to his offensive game it is a blow to Tampa Bay's lineup as he is still a very solid contributor defensively for the Lightning and was a valuable player during last year's playoff run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Lightning beat writer Erik Erlendsson insists this won't put the Lightning in the trade market for another defenseman and will instead move forward with the players they already have on the roster, including Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer, Pavel Kubina and Brett Clark.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 1, 2011 4:16 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 4:35 pm

Crosby not expected to play in opener

SC3By: Adam Gretz

When it was announced that Sidney Crosby would be joining the Penguins on their season opening trip to western Canada there seemed to be a slim chance that he might be ready for their game against Vancouver on Thursday night.

That, of course, seemed like an extreme long shot with perhaps a less than one percent chance of actually happening -- and even that might be overselling it -- seeing as how he hasn't even been cleared for contact yet, a rather large hurdle that still needs to be overcome in his comeback from a concussion.

On Saturday any hope of him being ready for the opener went away when Crosby all but ruled himself out saying, "No. I wouldn't expect it."

The Penguins' captain hasn't appeared in a game since Jan. 5 of last season against the Tampa Bay Lightning when he was hit by defenseman Victor Hedman, which came less than a week after his run-in with Washington's Dave Steckel during the Winter Classic. Prior to suffering the season-ending concussion he had scored 32 goals in 41 games and was running away with the NHL's scoring lead. Even though he played what amounts to just half the season he still finished 31st in the league in points and 18th in goals. On a per-game basis (goals per game and points per game) it was by far the best season of his already impressive career.

Earlier this week Dave Molinari of the Post-Gazette mentioned on Twitter that Crosby had been involved in some minor, incidental contact in practice, but that it was nothing even remotely close to game contact and he was still wearing the white non-contact helmet. Evgeni Malkin, Crosby's teammate, caused even more excitement when he Tweeted on the same day that Crosby was involved in a contact portion of practice, before quickly following it up by jokingly saying that he just bumped him on a faceoff. And that's what it's come to at this point.

In the end, even though it appears that Crosby is progressing and getting closer to returning, he still has to be cleared for contact, and until that happens the waiting will continue.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com