The Jets won again Thursday night.
And there’s plenty of credit to give to this team for the success — after all, they are playing, for the most part, complete hockey. I’m sure Rick Bowness will find something that needs fixing. Coaches will never admit to having any perfect games on their resumes.
But that said, with the team scoring and playing quality team defence, there truly is one very big reason why the Jets have won 17 of 25 games this season. And when I say big, I mean six-foot-four big: the guy in goal, Connor Hellebuyck. You’ve heard of him.
Everyone knows that where you see a winning team, you will see a quality goaltender, or vice-versa. And that is exactly what the Jets have become with the Commerce, Mich., native. You can see through his cage. He is playing with a confidence that hasn’t been around here for a couple of years. And with an NHL season where scoring is up, Hellebuyck is one of the few goaltenders whose numbers are improved over last season.
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After the game Thursday night, Blake Wheeler said that Hellebuyck “makes the big saves look easy.” And he’s right. The bigger the save, the easier it looks. He really is a treat to watch.
People raved about Igor Shesterkin in New York last season, and call Andrei Vasilevskiy of Tampa the best goalie in the game today. Neither of those goalies is playing at the level of the Jets’ starter. His 2.24 average and .932 save percentage, combined with playing the second-most minutes of any goalie in the league, gives Hellebuyck an equation for success.
And while it is far too early to give out trophies, people throughout the league are acknowledging that Connor Charles Hellebuyck is the best at his position in the NHL today.
The biggest challenge, as this team continues to win, is to ensure that the Jets’ number one goaltender gets enough rest, and stays healthy to endure the long NHL regular season.
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