HELLEBUYCK FEEL­ING THE PRES­SURE

Goalie wants to prove him­self

Winnipeg Sun - - FRONT PAGE - KEN WIEBE kwiebe@post­media.com @WiebeSunS­ports

Con­nor Hellebuyck isn’t ready to give up the crease with­out a bat­tle.

Hellebuyck, who ap­peared in 56 games (in­clud­ing 53 starts) for the Win­nipeg Jets last sea­son, spent a good chunk of the sum­mer get­ting his game back in or­der and adding a few new things into his reper­toire.

While vet­eran Steve Ma­son was brought in to be the No. 1 guy, Hellebuyck is en­cour­aged by his sum­mer of train­ing and eager to get the new sea­son go­ing.

When asked if he was feel­ing less pres­sure com­ing into this sea­son af­ter Ma­son’s ar­rival, Hellebuyck didn’t hold back.

“You know what? I feel a lit­tle bit more pres­sure be­cause I have to prove what I set out here to do,” said Hellebuyck. “I think last year, I showed as­pects of it but I need to be bet­ter than that.

“I need to prove to not only my­self but to the guys around me that I can be a brick wall and that I’m not here to just set­tle in and to blend. I’m here to do some­thing and be part of some­thing great.”

There were a num­ber of ups-and-downs for Hellebuyck as he car­ried the workload of a No. 1 net­min­der at the NHL level in what was just his third pro sea­son.

What was his big­gest take­away af­ter hav­ing some time to re­flect?

“It’s hard to put my fin­ger on one thing,” said Hellebuyck, who was 26-19-4 with a 2.89 goals-against av­er­age and .907 save %. “I learned a lot last sea­son and I felt my­self get a lot bet­ter.

(Play­ing 56 games) means a lot. It means I can han­dle the workload. You learn from play­ing, you learn from your mis­takes. I’m go­ing to take from last year as much as I can, what I suc­ceeded at and keep work­ing on the lit­tle things I need to.”

Hellebuyck spent part of his sum­mer in Kelowna work­ing with goalie guru Adam Fran­cilia of NET360.

“First off, in the sum­mer, I had to find my game again and I found that right away. I was very com­fort­able with my game,” said Hellebuyck. “When I jumped on with him, I saw tremen­dous im­prove­ments come into my game. That’s what I was look­ing for, tak­ing my game to the next level and prov­ing not only that I be­long but also that I can be a high-end (goalie) in this league. With Adam’s help, I’m on my way to do­ing that.”

What was the big­gest thing Hellebuyck took from work­ing with Fran­cilia?

“I’ll give you the most ba­sic way I can say it and that’s biome­chan­ics,” said Hellebuyck. “The way the goal­tender moves and how the body moves, and it starts from the core.”

Hellebuyck has spent some time get­ting to know Ma­son dur­ing the past sev­eral weeks and be­lieves hav­ing a healthy com­pe­ti­tion will help both goalies.

“He’s a good guy. I like him a lot and we bonded right away. It’s an ex­cit­ing time,” said Hellebuyck. “Ab­so­lutely, I think it brings fun to the game. You can’t be too hard on your­self be­cause at the end of the day you’ve got to have fun do­ing it. I think hav­ing a lit­tle bit of a bat­tle is not go­ing to be a bad thing. It’s go­ing to help.”

Ma­son said on Fri­day that not hav­ing a vet­eran he could lean on early in his ca­reer was some­thing he wished he’d had — and that he was hop­ing to pro­vide that for Hellebuyck.

When asked if not hav­ing a more vet­eran pres­ence around him last year may have been a fac­tor in his up and down play, Hellebuyck wasn’t in­ter­ested in go­ing down that road.

“I’d re­ally like to avoid those ques­tions. I don’t want to throw any­one un­der the bus and I don’t want to say the wrong thing,” said Hellebuyck. “So I have no com­ment for that. What I am go­ing to say is that I went and dis­cov­ered my game and I like where my game is now and I like the im­prove­ments that are con­tin­u­ing to come.”

Jets head coach Paul Mau­rice has no­ticed a change in Hellebuyck’s ap­pear­ance and be­lieves he’ll ben­e­fit from the ex­pe­ri­ence he gained last sea­son.

“So, he’s a lit­tle older, his neck’s a lit­tle thicker, he’s a lit­tle more pow­er­ful in the net get­ting across, he can drive through the en­tire prac­tice,” said Mau­rice. “So, all those things that are im­por­tant to other play­ers are so im­por­tant to goal­tenders to be able to play the po­si­tion.

“He looks big­ger, he looks stronger. All of that ex­pe­ri­ence from last year has a great value to him. It’s a con­fi­dence builder. He’s been through it, he knows how to han­dle it, there’s far less un­known for him go­ing into the year.”

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Jets goalie Con­nor Hellebuyck ad­mits there’s more pres­sure on him to work hard and get re­sults this sea­son.

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