Victor Hedman won the Conn Smythe Trophy voted as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday.
The Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman was named after they won the Stanley Cup with a 2-0 win against the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the Final at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
“I never in my dreams thought I would win the Stanley Cup,” Hedman said. “It’s a dream. It’s 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.”
Hedman heard his name called by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, skated over to accept the trophy, took it off the ice to the bench, and returned to his teammates, where he was embraced by Steven Stamkos and Ryan McDonagh, among others.
“To watch ‘Heddy’ win that Conn Smythe, to be the best player in the world in the playoffs, to just watch our relationship grow to where it is today, it’s just love and admiration,” Stamkos, the Lightning captain, said. “And this is one of the best feelings in the world, and I’m so thankful that I get to share this moment with Heddy.”
After Stamkos was handed the Stanley Cup by Bettman, he gave it to Hedman, his teammate for 11 seasons with the Lightning.
“He and ‘Stammer’ are the two that have been here the longest, and he’s watched players come in and out, he’s watched the team change over, they’ve missed [the] playoffs,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “… Heddy has grown as a leader, and then when ‘Stammer’ wasn’t able to be around, Heddy stepped to the forefront. And just to watch this guy grow, it’s remarkable. He was so deserving of the Conn Smythe, and I know Stammer couldn’t be happier for him.”
Hedman scored 10 goals, third in history by a defenseman in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He scored 22 points in 25 postseason games for the Lightning, who played three round-robin games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers before eliminating the Columbus Blue Jackets (five games in a best-of-7), Boston Bruins (five games) and New York Islanders (six games) to win the Eastern Conference.
Lightning forwards Nikita Kucherov (postseason leader with 34 points) and Brayden Point (postseason leader with 14 goals), and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (postseason record 18 wins) were contenders for the award, voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Hedman said “someone’s got to replace those goals” with Stamkos out for all but 2:47 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs because of injury. Hedman scored 11 goals in 68 regular-season games before the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
“I thought about it a lot during the break,” Hedman said. “It was, ‘What can I improve in my game?’ and that’s shooting the puck. Some of them found the net.
“So at the end of the day, this is not my trophy, this is everyone’s trophy. … It could have gone to every single guy on that team.”
Edmonton Oilers defenseman Paul Coffey scored 12 goals in the 1985 playoffs, and New York Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch scored 11 in the 1994 playoffs.
Hedman had an assist on Point’s goal in Game 6. The 29-year-old is the second Lightning player to win the Conn Smythe; forward Brad Richards was the winner in 2004 when Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup for the first time.
“It’s all worth it now, for sure,” Hedman said. “That’s the bottom line. We’re Stanley Cup champs. We’re going to be Stanley Cup champs forever. It’s going to be in the history. Our kids, our grandkids, if they look at the Stanley Cup, they’re going to see our names.”