TAMPA, Fla. — Victor Hedman was second to John Tavares in the 2009 NHL Draft, but the big Tampa Bay defenseman was second to no one in this Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Hedman had two goals in the Game 5 clincher Sunday, giving him four goals and four assists in the five-game series. Tavares had a goal and assist in Game 1 but was held pointless in the last four.
“I think you saw him start to play like this last playoff,” Islanders alternate captain Frans Nielsen said of Hedman. “He’s got the size, but he keeps a really good gap; he knows where to be when he doesn’t have the puck. And he’s got a big shot on offense, a quick release — he’s the whole package. You don’t always notice him when you’re not playing these guys, but seeing him up close this series, he’s a great player.”
Quine back for Game 5
Coach Jack Capuano made one change, putting Alan Quine back in the lineup in place of Steve Bernier. That wasn’t the spark the Isles’ offense needed, but Quine finished his first postseason with a goal and four assists, tied for fourth on the team in postseason scoring.
Capuano also shifted Nielsen to the top line with Tavares and Kyle Okposo, though that line struggled without the puck.
Tavares lost a draw to Tyler Johnson in the first period and Johnson’s line worked the Isles over before Hedman stole the puck from Okposo and beat Thomas Greiss for the opening goal.
Uncertainty in goal
Greiss didn’t finish the postseason as strongly as he started it, but there was no question who the Islanders’ No. 1 goaltender was in the playoffs.
Two months after suffering a severe groin injury, Jaroslav Halak never made it back to full health and was not even an option in net.
Allan Walsh, Halak’s agent, was at Game 5, presumably to discuss his client’s future. Halak still has two years at $4.5 million per season left on his deal.