TAMPA — The Lightning head to the All-Star break with 66 points- third-best in the NHL. This is the first normal schedule for the league since 2019, and it's starting to actually feel that way to the players and coaches.
"Definitely remember the one in Tampa, here. That was a ton of fun," Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said with a smile. "Sometimes it’s nice to get a little time off. We’ve played a lot of hockey. These guys deserve it."
They've logged 46 games so far, 15 of which have gone into overtime or a shootout. The Lightning is 7-2 in games decided in overtime.
"With the open ice, it allows our skill guys to make plays," said center Anthony Cirelli. "You see [Brayden Point], [Ondrej Palat], [Steven Stamkos] up the ice. And [Victor Hedman], he gets the winner, there. I think a huge part is [Andrei Vasilevskiy] back there. He’s making unbelievable saves for us."
Defenseman Victor Hedman scored the overtime game-winner Tuesday night against San Jose. He's tied for the league lead-in points for a defenseman (47), and he's making his third All-Star appearance. But all he wants to talk about is the big picture.
"I think it’s a well-deserved and well-earned break for us," Hedman said. "This is big for us to only have five games in this month, left. So that’s good news for our team."
Cooper's happy but not surprised that Hedman is playing some of his best hockey at age 31.
"It seems like the guys in their 30's on our team… must be something in the water here in Tampa, because they’re all playing like they’re in their mid-20s,' Cooper added. "He’s getting better with age, and it’s impressive."
All-Star Weekend gets underway with the skills competition Friday night in Las Vegas. Puck drop for the first of two semifinal match-ups is Saturday at 3:15 P.M., with the championship starting at 5:15 P.M. You can catch all the action on ABC.