THE Jets’ penalty killing, still in the NHL’s bottom six, looks to be making some progress, very effective again Tuesday in the win over the Detroit Red Wings.
Winnipeg killed the first five short-handed situations, and has looked better in killing 13 of the last 15 situations over four games.
“I thnk we’re just more aggressive when we can be,” centre Bryan Little said. “Against a team like Detroit, where they have a lot of skilled players, we did a good job of taking away a lot of their time and space, and pressured up ice. We had a few chances even on the penalty kill last night. I think that style works for us. We’re better when we’re on the puck and more aggressive.”
AFTERBURNERS: The Jets are 6-13-0 against the Western Conference this season and 3-100 against the Central Division, tests they will face over the next five games... Andrew Ladd’s goal Tuesday was Winnipeg’s first with a five-on-three advantage this season.
Those numbers, if they are substantiated over the longer term and are not just an opening salvo fuelled by adrenaline — knowing the difference is where so many self-professed experts go off track — could mean a lot of things to the Jets, who begin a five-game road trip tonight in Glendale, Ariz.
They could mean a more consistent run of results based on the better defence and goals-against numbers the Jets rode to the post-season a year ago.
And that could and probably would mean making up ground on the pack that holds down Western Conference playoff spots. The Jets are seven points away entering today’s play.
It could even mean a shift in the depth chart when Pavelec returns in the coming weeks, though a lot of water is bound to go under the bridge before we arrive at that potentially fascinating juncture.
And with all of that, keep in mind the other member of the current Jets goaltending trio, Michael Hutchinson, was also out of the gate similarly last
10 15 16
7 5 5 season.
Then the NHL newcomer, he was summarily brilliant until the all-star break and since then, he’s been a victim of some hard luck, some iffy goals, and can’t seem to buy a break or a consonant between V and X.
But that’s in the past and the future is not yet known, leaving only what we know today.
And that’s this about Hellebuyck, according to Maurice: “Consistent. Very, very few days, if any, where he didn’t look the same as the day before. And that would be true of the games.”
Hellebuyck will almost surely be in goal again tonight. That it will be eight of the last nine nods from his coach really didn’t seem to register with him Wednesday.
“I don’t know how to answer that,” said Hellebuyck, coming off a two-game stint at home in which he allowed just one goal, winning both starts. “I just go and give my best when the coach calls my name.”
That best has given the Jets a lot of chances to win.
And even on the one night where things went wrong and he was pulled in a 3-1 loss in Edmonton, Maurice sounded awfully forgiving in hindsight.
“The goals weren’t his,” Maurice said, maybe overlooking one. “It wasn’t one that got by him that made me feel he was off his game. He’s just looked the same way every day.
“He’s efficient in the net. He doesn’t look like he’s burning a lot of energy. Size, on the breakaway chance with (Darren) Helm (on Tuesday) he had the
‘Consistent. Very, very few days, if any, where he didn’t look the same as the day before. And that would be true of the games’
3 6 8
0 1 1
2.01 2.82 2.89
.932 .906 .906 ability to stretch out, get wide, get low, but very consistent in how he looks.”
Hellebuyck was asked if he considers one of his strengths to be his ability to stare down shooters, whether it be in a breakaway or shootout situation.
“I’ve never thought there was a difference between anything else and breakaways,” Hellebuyck said. “It’s just goaltending in general — you get a read on what’s happening in front of you and you make a decision.”
From there, he launched a wave of credit at his teammates for the promising numbers of late.
“They’re paying the price, blocking a lot of shots,” Hellebuyck said. “They’re doing the little things like the quick little passes that help you get out of the zone. And the support up the ice. When you see those things, that a lot of people don’t look at, you see a team that’s doing well.”
Those teammates, in return, have begun to feel some trust and confidence right back at him.
“He looks confident in there,” Jets centre Bryan Little said. “He makes a lot of tough saves, especially in traffic, and makes them look easy. He sees the puck well
“It doesn’t seem like it’s his first couple of months in the league. He’s really comfortable out there and he works hard in practice. And the team’s confident in front of him. Those are good combinations.” How much does that matter? “I think it matters a lot,” Little said. “You have the confidence that if there is a breakdown or a mistake, he’s got your back and will make a big save for the team. It’s nice having that confidence in your goalie to make a big save like that.”
And if none of that rings as true at the end of the five-game road trip, well, at least we’ll have fish wrap and a goalie controversy as Plan B.
Shane Doan finished the night with the second hat trick of his career and tied Dale Hawerchuk for the franchise lead with his 379th goal with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Arizona’s star defenceman Oliver EkmanLarsson lef t the game late in the third with a ‘lower-body injur y’ as did D-man Zbynek Michalek, but coach Dave Tippet t told repor ters Wednesday both would be in the lineup against the Jets.
Mikkel Boedker leads Arizona in scoring with 29 points, including 12 goals, while rookie Max Domi is second with 10 goals and 26 points.
Some notable Coyotes numbers: Arizona ranks first in the league with a 53.3 faceof f-win percentage... The Coyotes are 9-1-1-1 all-time at home vs. Winnipeg/Atlanta... Winnipeg product Michael Stone is on a three-game point streak (1-3-4) and with 66 career points, just passed Deron Quint for 11th place on the franchise all-time points list among defencemen.
(Lineups subject to change)
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck takes par t in practice Wednesday afternoon at the MTS Centre.