They are tough lessons, especially when everyone is watching, when the playoff lights, the first you've been under, are so very bright.

But Victor Hedman, the Tampa Bay Lightning's 21-year-old defenseman, has come a long way in his second NHL season. These playoffs are proof.

Remember when he was caught in the glare early in the Pittsburgh series?

It was Game 3 at the Forum and Hedman missed a center ice check on Mike Rupp, completely whiffed, then didn't get back as Pittsburgh swooped in 2-on-1 for a goal and a 2-0 series lead.

The kid looked bad.

It can be that way with a young defenseman.

Sometimes you look awful lonely when that red light goes on.

But since then, like a lot of Bolts with no playoff experience, something has kicked in.

Hedman was rock solid on the back line as the Lighting came from 3-1 down in the series to beat the Penguins. And he looked just as confident in the sweep of Washington, using his speed, using his reach, using most anything to stop most everything that came his way. The 6-foot-6 Hedman keeps getting better.

Hedman has three assists across 11 postseason games, and a minus-3 rating, but the real number that matters is ice time. He is averaging nearly 22 minutes a game. Among skaters, only Bolts veteran defenseman Eric Brewer is averaging more.

"These are the types of games you live for, the kind of games you want to play," Hedman said last week.

He mad a simply wonderful play in Game 3 against the Capitals to help set up a Steven Stamkos goal.

It's coming together.

The real key to the advanced learning curve is that Hedman seems to realize that he doesn't have to be everything for the Lightning back there.

It took a while for Hedman to learn that -- hey, he's still learning it.