Earlier this week after the Winnipeg Jets’ lost 3-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs, I had mentioned that goalie Connor Hellebuyck wasn’t having his typical Vezina Trophy season. In retrospect, I might have spoken a few days too quickly before I landed on that conclusion. He’s been nothing but stellar in net since that game.
As teammate Blake Wheeler noted after Hellebuyck made 28 stops against the Ottawa Senators, and Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry, and Wheeler scored more than enough goals to push the Jets into a 4-1 win Thursday night, ”He’s quite the luxury to have back there. ‘We certainly feel he’s the top goaltender in the league.”
The only goal Hellebuyck allowed was late in the third-period to Chris Tierney with 2:57 left.
The two teams meet again on Saturday in Winnipeg in a rare three-game series. Earlier this week, the Jets played poorly, but put on enough of a push to win the first game in overtime 4-3 against the Senators on Tuesday. Currently, the Jets’ record is 3-1-0, as the Senators’ record slipped to 1-2-1.
In this edition of Jets’ News & Rumors, I share some of the news emerging from the game as well as other news emerging from the Jets’ organization.
Item One: Connor Hellebuyck Wins Easily, But Is Still Angry at Himself
Hellebuyck saved 28 of the 29 shots he saw in last night’s 4-1 win over the Senators. Unlike the team’s first game, when the Senators buzzed the Jets early and the team was fortunate to hold on for the win, this time the Senators didn’t generate many dangerous scoring chances. In the end, Hellebuyck made every save he needed to. In every way, he seemed like he was once again aware of and playing like he was the reigning Vezina Trophy winner.
Ever the team guy, Hellebuyck praised his teammates, “Everyone was connected and we moved as a unit. There was no one slacking. Everyone wanted to play and everyone was in it early.”
As noted, the only goal Hellebuyck allowed was Tierney’s shutout-ender with under three minutes remaining in the third period. That goal seemed to leave Hellebuyck cursing under his breath; and, after the game, he shared with the media how upset he was with himself: “It makes me really angry.”
Hellebuyck has now tended two strong back-to-back games, stopping 63 of 66 shots (.955 save percentage) during those two games. In total, the win gave the 27-year-old a 2-1-0 record, a goals-against-average of 2.00, and a .935 save percentage.
He’ll once again go against the Senators on Saturday. However, it’s not likely he’ll play the next night when the Jets meet the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday.
Item Two: Mark Scheifele Leads Jets’ Top Line to Scoring Success
Mark Scheifele scored both a goal and an assist in Thursday’s win over the Senators. In fact, the Jets’ first line of Scheifele, Wheeler, and Kyle Connor totaled two goals and three assists during the game. This line was absolutely dominating for the entire game. Scheifele led all Jets’ forwards by skating 21:00 minutes.
Scheifele’s been carrying added pressure into recent games because Patrik Laine’s been missing from the lineup. He’s delivered over the past four games, by scoring two goals and three assists. He’s also been a demon in the faceoff circle – winning 11 of 13 faceoffs (for 84.6 percent). It was his second straight two-point game.
Item Three: Nikolaj Ehlers Scores One Goal and One Assist
Nikolaj Ehlers registered a goal and an assist on Thursday. His goal helped the Jets go up 2-0 halfway through the first period. Then, he set up Scheifele’s second-period goal. Ehlers’s started the season strong and is on a point-a-game streak with two goals and two assists in four games.
Item Four: Kyle Connor Has Now Scored in Four Straight Games
Kyle Connor extended his point-scoring streak to four games by scoring two assists in the 4-1 win over the Senators. He was credited with secondary assists on two second-period goals – one by Scheifele and the other by Wheeler. That puts him on the score sheet in each of the Jets’ four games this season.
In fact, Connor’s seven points (three goals and four assists) ties him for the NHL league lead with four other players. Last season, the 24-year-old Connor scored career highs with 73 points, 38 goals, and 35 assists. It looks as if he hasn’t slowed down at all.
What’s Next for the Jets?
In this space, I just wanted to congratulate Hellebuyck on logging his 150th career win.
As he said after the game, “It’s another one of those little proud moments. It just says a lot about the guys in front of me, the team as a whole, how long we’ve been together and building together and getting a lot of wins along the way.”