The Winnipeg Jets were always going to be an offensive juggernaut. The emergence of a goaltender really elevated them last season. This year, however, they’ve seen uneven play from their top guy.
He lead the league in wins, with 44 and had a .924 save percentage, leading the Jets to the Western Conference Finals. But this year was not so kind to Helly (or many goalies around the league, to be fair), as he was sitting on a .902 save percentage and nearly 3.00 GAA twenty starts into this season.
Thankfully the Winnipeg Jets offense (and the emergence of backup Laurent Brossoit) helped keep the Jets afloat in the early going, but confidence in the team replicating their success wasn’t at an all-time high.
And while Hellebuyck would have spurts of elite play, he was wildly inconsistent and threw up quite a few clunkers. And we complained about it ad nauseam, since it was seemingly the main thing keeping the team from championship contention.
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But now we can complain about the defensive depth and Bryan Little again, because Connor Hellebuyck has quietly been improving. His overall numbers don’t impress (.910%, 2.85GAA, .436 Quality Start %), but he’s been much better of late.
Helly’s turned in a 12-7 record with a .919 save percentage in his last 19 contests. It’s helped the Winnipeg Jets go 8-3 in their last 11 contests, helping them stay a few points ahead of the Nashville Predators.
Don’t forget Brossoit, who hasn’t slowed down a bit. He’s 7-1 with a .943 save percentage, including the team’s first shutout, in his last eight games. Having an elite option as the backup has helped take some of the pressure off of Hellebuyck, and he’s finally turning a corner.
I don’t think he’ll climb up to .920s territory, but nobody seems to be doing that anymore. Only six goaltenders who have started at least 25 games are sitting at .920 or better, and just one (oddly enough it’s Robin Lehner) is over .930.
It’s a scoring league once again, and I don’t see things slowing down anytime soon. But that just means the improved play of Hellebuyck, paired with the fantastic cameos of Brossoit is quite good enough to contend.
It’s a huge relief to see improved play, since this was likely one area the team couldn’t improve at the deadline. They weren’t going to dump Connor Hellebuyck in year one, and unless he was unplayable, I didn’t see a swap for Brossoit coming.
The defense and the depth scoring can be fixed, but goaltending can sink an otherwise elite squad in the playoffs. Hopefully this is just one thing the Jets and their fans won’t have to worry about moving forward.
If only they could acquire a second-line center.