Big Meets Bigger: Hall must figure out Hedman for Devils to upset Lightning

Taylor Hall has finally made the playoffs. His reward? A date with the Tampa Bay Lightning and plenty of face time with star blue-liner Victor Hedman.

After a regular-season performance that put him in the conversation for MVP honors – Hall notched 93 points in 76 games, including a 25-game streak – the Devils forward needs a similar showing in the playoffs to give New Jersey any hope against the heavily favored Lightning.

And that’s a tall task. This Tampa Bay squad waltzed through the regular season en route to a franchise-record 113 points, and there’s no denying Hedman was a big contributor.

When he wasn’t putting a career-high 17 goals past the opposing goaltender, Hedman was making life easier for Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy, regularly pushing in-close chances away from Tampa Bay’s crease.

With that in mind, can the smaller Hall do enough to get around the hulking Hedman to help the Devils’ chances?

New Jersey won all three matchups against the Lightning this season, and Hall picked up an assist in each contest. But he couldn’t score a goal of his own, apparently losing the battle in the net-front area where both players excel.

If Hall can’t translate his regular-season success to the playoffs and Hedman thrives in this shutdown assignment, it could be a short series.

The Hall versus Hedman showdown begins Thursday in Tampa Bay.

(Charts courtesy: HockeyViz.com)

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April 12, 2018

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