While the Winnipeg Jets locked up their franchise goaltender, his early returns were suboptimal, but the American Hero seems to be turning it around late.
The Winnipeg Jets would always tell you they believed in Connor Hellebuyck. I do, too. I’m not saying he’ll ever have a season like the one he did last year, setting the record for wins by an American-born goaltender.
But he’s capable. He’s not Henrik Ludqvist or Carey Price. He may not even be Pekka Rinne (who is having a down year compared to last as well) or Andrei Vasilevskiy. But he is a rock solid goaltender. I’ve seen enough to know.
Yeah, he’s struggled. Yeah, his overall numbers leave a bit to be desired at .912% save percentage and 2.92 GAA. But hey, they’re trending upward.
Helly made 29 saves, including 9 on the powerplay, in recording his first shutout of the season against Anaheim. It took a while to get there, 55 starts to be exact, but he got one. Connor Hellebuyck won’t be shutout in the shutout department.
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And it wasn’t just the last game, either. He’s been better of late on the whole. His last three starts, he’s 3-0 with .952% save percentage, 92 saves on 96 shots. That’s playoff form for our boy.
On the grander scale, he’s still been creeping upward of late, with a .923% save percentage in his last nine starts. I’ll take it. Everyone will stop caring about his struggles this season if he rounds into form and performs well in the playoffs.
The defense getting the big guys back will help, hopefully. But I’m happy to see they can keep the puck out of the net without them in the lineup. The team as a whole has been coming out of their funk, and their current four game winning streak helps.
Not only that, but the Winnipeg Jets can clinch a playoff berth tonight. If they win against the Golden Knights in Vegas, which is no easy task on any day, let alone the second day of a back to back, they’ve clinched.
They can clinch if they lose in OT or in the shootout, but that would require Arizona losing in regulation and the Blackhawks and Avalanche failing to get two points.
Why don’t they just make it easy on everyone and pick up the two points necessary? Let’s hope. I would imagine Hellebuyck will get the start again, seeing as how Laurent Brossoit started against LA a couple days ago.
But maybe the Jets want to keep him fresh for the playoffs and start Brossoit again, but I wouldn’t count on it. Malcolm Subban will be between the pipes for the Knights, which bodes well for Winnipeg. Subban is 6-7 with a .901% save percentage and 3.11 GAA in 15 starts.
Nothing against the younger Subban, but he’s no Marc-Andre Fleury. Doesn’t mean the game will be easy. But it’ll be nice to clinch a playoff spot as early as possible, though it seems to be a lock overall.
Vegas provides a better challenge to Hellebuyck than Anaheim did, though he’s fared well against Boston and Calgary in recent days, so it’s not like he’s padding his stats against mediocre competition.
Let’s just hope he keeps it going and it’s not just another flash-in-the-pan hot streak.