Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs MVP on Monday.
Hedman, 29, scored 10 goals this mid year. Paul Coffey (12) and Brian Leetch (11) are the only defensemen to record more. Hedman, who additionally had 11 assists, led the Lightning in ice time this summer, averaging over 26 minutes for each game.
“It’s been a grind. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s all worth it now. We’re Stanley Cup champs, and we’re going to be Stanley Cup champs forever,” Hedman said after the Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 6 to win the Stanley Cup Final. “It’s going to be in history. Our grandkids can look at the Stanley Cup and see our names.”
Before this mid year, Hedman had never scored multiple goals or recorded in excess of 14 points in a postseason. He is the third Swedish-born player to win the Conn Smythe, following Nicklas Lidstrom (2002) and Henrik Zetterberg (2008). He is the tenth defenseman to win the award and the first since Chicago’s Duncan Keith in 2015.
“This is not my trophy. This is everyone’s trophy,” Hedman said. “You could make the case for every single guy on this team. I’m obviously super proud to get the award, but the big, silver thing is the one we’re after. We’re going to take this to our grave. We’re so happy.”
The Lightning played the whole playoffs without their captain, Steven Stamkos, aside from a three-minute, five-shift appearance by Stamkos in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. Stamkos, wearing full uniform, was as yet the first player to lift the Cup, yet he passed it to Hedman, a substitute captain, straightforwardly after.
“Heddy has grown as a leader,” coach Jon Cooper said. “When Stammer wasn’t able to be around, Heddy stepped to the forefront. To watch this guy grow, it’s just remarkable. He was so deserving of the Conn Smythe, and I know Stammer is proud of him.”
Said Stamkos: “To watch Heddy win that Conn Smythe, to be the best player in the world in the playoffs and to just watch a relationship grow to where it is today, it’s just love and admiration.”
The 2020 Conn Smythe Trophy was decided on by individuals from the Professional Hockey Writers Association and featured one of the tightest races ever. Hedman got nine first-place votes, with partner Brayden Point accumulating eight to complete second in the voting.
A strong case could likewise be made for Nikita Kucherov, who was third, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who played in each Lightning game in the two-month competition and recorded a shutout in Game 6.
Kucherov and Point led playoff scoring with 34 and 33 points, respectively. They each had a five-point streak as the Stanley Cup Final finished, making them the first pair of colleagues to do that since Mark Messier and Alex Kovalev for the New York Rangers in 1994. Point scored the opening goal in the securing win, his fourteenth of the playoffs (the vast majority of any player this summer) and third game champ. Two of his champs came in additional time.
In the postgame celebration, Hedman was unreserved about his colleagues, and he conceded a few times that he was speechless.
“I never in my dream thought I’d win the Stanley Cup,” he said. “It’s a dream. It’s so, so unrealistic. It’s what you dream of when you play on the streets back home when you grow up. It’s what you imagine all the time. These last two games, they’ve been tough. Not just physically on the ice — it’s been tough mentally. You force yourself not to think about it, but you can’t help yourself. You think about it all the time.”