Hutchinson’s hand still hot

Another win by backup may stoke goalie battle

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COLUMBUS — Funny thing about small sample sizes: If the first taste is vile, it gets spit out in a hurry. But if there’s something savoury about the first few bites, it usually leads to one forkful after another being jammed down the ol’ gullet.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/11/2014 (2996 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

COLUMBUS — Funny thing about small sample sizes: If the first taste is vile, it gets spit out in a hurry. But if there’s something savoury about the first few bites, it usually leads to one forkful after another being jammed down the ol’ gullet.

All of which brings us to Michael Hutchinson, the Winnipeg Jets goaltender who just keeps on winning whenever he glides into the crease. And he did it again Tuesday night in Columbus, kicking out 32 of 34 shots in a 4-2 victory for the Jets that began a three-games-in-four-nights road trip that continues Wednesday in Buffalo and wraps up Friday in Boston.

Consider this: since getting yanked in his first  start of the season — a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings back on Oct. 12 — Hutchinson has stopped 132 of the 137 shots he’s faced for a .964 save percentage.

Jay LaPrete / The Associated Press Winnipeg Jets' Bryan Little, centre, celebrates his first-period goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets with teammates Andrew Ladd, left, and Blake Wheeler. The Jets beat the Blue Jackets 4-2.

More importantly, the Jets are 4-0-1 in that span.

A GOOD, HEALTHY GOALTENDER DEBATE?

Question then: When does a small sample size become something meatier? Asked after the game — which improved the Jets to 11-9-3 — if Hutchinson has done enough to warrant another start on this trip, Coach Paul Maurice was succinct.

“Yeah, he has,” he said with a grin.

And when pressed as to whether that could lead to back-to-back starts, with another Wednesday in Buffalo, Maurice noted the young netminder might get a night off before starting Friday in Boston — against the same team that drafted him before kicking him to the curb.

“I don’t know that (starting him against the Sabres) would be the right thing to do,” said Maurice. “We’ve got a healthy No. 1 guy. But what (Hutchinson) keeps doing is shortening the interval.”

Worth noting here: While Hutchinson is unbeaten in his last five starts, Ondrej Pavelec is winless in his last five — 0-4, plus the game in Minnesota in which he was pulled, but Hutchinson got the decision in an OT loss.

Hutchinson, for his part, won’t be publicly politicking for more work. He’ll let his stats speak for themselves, it would seem.

“You’re always hoping to get more starts but at the same time, the only thing that matters is the team winning,” he said. “We’ve played well on the road this year and hopefully we can keep it rolling the next two games.

“I’m feeling really good about where my game is right now. I’m reading the play well, I’m able to read those seam passes and know where players are on the ice. That just comes from practising hard, getting game experience and getting into the game speed. It’s nice that I’ve gone a couple starts lately and I feel more and more comfortable.”

ONE SMALL STEP FOR THE PP, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR…

The Jets entered the contest Uh-oh-for-two-weeks on the power-play, a seven-game drought that stretched to 0-for-25 before Evander Kane tapped home a perfect feed from Dustin Byfuglien late in the second.

That was followed just 31 seconds by an Andrew Ladd marker on a delayed penalty that put the Jets ahead 3-1. Winnipeg would add another power-play goal with 18 seconds left in the game, with the Columbus net empty as Kane buried his second and fourth goal of the season.

Just for the record, prior to Kane’s goal, the last Jets man-advantage marker came back on Nov. 8, when Toby Enstrom scored against Ottawa.

“It’s nice to finally get one on the power-play,” said Kane. “Hopefully that can start a trend.”

The Jets had been tinkering with a new look on the power-play, implementing an umbrella — a three-man triangle — at the top, rather than lining up two defencemen. It seemed to give the Jets more puck possession, although not necessarily more shots on goal.

“On fire… the power-play is on fire,” said Maurice with a grin. “Prior to the goal, I liked what we had there. We got some pucks to the net a little bit differently, so that was good. It was a little disjointed because of the four-on-four going to the five-on-four (at the start of the first power-play that led to a goal) but you’ve got to start somewhere with that power play and usually it has to be like that.

“You have to get a good feeling on it and then you get a little more confidence to move the puck faster.”

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

History

Updated on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 6:46 PM CST: Adds live blog.

Updated on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 6:52 PM CST: Updates headline after 1st period

Updated on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 9:37 PM CST: Adds slideshow.

Updated on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 9:42 PM CST: Replaces pre-gamer with CP post-game story

Updated on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 10:30 PM CST: Replaces CP post-gamer with WFP post-game story.

Updated on Tuesday, November 25, 2014 10:59 PM CST: Updates headline

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