Hellebuyck just ‘moving forward’

Successful road trip can erase memory of weak goal against Philly


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BOSTON — Connor Hellebuyck was trending upward after a well-earned shutout Tuesday night, only to stumble slightly just 48 hours later.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/11/2016 (2383 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

BOSTON — Connor Hellebuyck was trending upward after a well-earned shutout Tuesday night, only to stumble slightly just 48 hours later.

Such is life for a gifted young goalie in the NHL, particulary one pegged to be a workhorse for years to come. Growing pains are part of the deal, and the Winnipeg Jets seem prepared for the occasional hiccup.

Facing no shots through nine minutes of play, Hellebuyck was beaten by a couple of bullets within 34 seconds at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia Thursday night. Kudos to Flyers forwards Sean Couturier and Michael Raffl for picking their spots.

Tom Mihalek / The Associated Press Winnipeg Jets' Connor Hellebuyck on the Flyers' long-range goal that got past him in the second period of the Jets' 5-2 loss on Thursday: “Just (get) back at it, put it behind you and continue striving forward.”

But the third goal he surrendered, coming off the stick of defenceman Mark Streit from long range, was a bad one, a momentum-killer. It came midway through the second period, about six minutes after Jets blue-liner Dustin Byfuglien scored his first goal of the year, giving back the hosts a two-goal cushion.

The Flyers surged to a 5-2 victory, spoiling the start of Winnipeg’s five-game road trip.

Speaking Friday morning, Hellebuyck was reluctant to delve into how the point shot sailed past him but said he needs to be better.

“I’d rather not talk about that one. I wouldn’t say tough, I just didn’t my whole hand on it, and it pushed through my glove,” he said. “Just (get) back at it, put it behind you and continue striving forward.”

The Jets outshot the Flyers 32-22, coming up empty on a number of grade-A scoring chances due to the fine effort of goalie Steve Mason.

The morning after, head coach Paul Maurice agreed the third goal should not have gone in, noting it doesn’t negate the strides the 23-year-old netminder from Commerce, Mich., has made to become a bona fide starter.

“We have a schedule of how we look at the video, how we assess the performance, and we did that. Helley wants the third one back, and we want him to have the third one back,” said Maurice. “His play going into (Thursday) night’s game was really, really good. There’s some confidence there.

“A little perspective, right, so 48 or 72 hours ago, there’s 20 guys hugging him in the net for a shutout against Chicago.”

Winnipeg continues the road trip tonight against the Boston Bruins and then heads to Raleigh, N.C., to face the Carolina Hurricanes Sunday.

Hellebuyck, a big body guarding the net at 6-4, 204 pounds, said there’s too much at stake moving forward to lament the miscues of even the recent past.

“It’s one game. If we win the rest of this road trip, no one’s gonna even think about this game being a problem,” he said. “It’s just right now we’re a little upset that we lost because we were on such a good streak.

“It’s how hockey goes. It’s 82 games, and you can’t look at one like it’s the most important one of them all. You’ve just got to continue moving forward and winning as many as possible.”

Hellebuyck’s recent body of work, since Maurice chose, at the beginning of November, to move away from a rotation system that included Michael Hutchinson, has been impressive.

Coming into the battle with the Flyers, he was called on to start six of seven games and won five of them, including a 4-0 shutout over the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday at the MTS Centre. In those five triumphs, his save percentage was a flashy .938, and his goals-against average was 1.77.

In his only loss during that stretch, he was given the hook Nov. 6 in New York after allowing four goals on just 16 shots by the Rangers, another one of those bumps in the road.

Maurice came right back with him two nights later, and he delivered a 28-save effort at home against Dallas, although he did get a whole lot of production from his teammates in an 8-2 thrashing of the Stars.

On Friday morning, Maurice wasn’t prepared to say which netminder he’ll turn to for the game at the TD Garden, only that both will play this weekend.

“You make a decision, and you’re right or wrong (based) on the performance of the player,” Maurice said. “We’ll take our time, and I’ll let the goalies know some time this afternoon how we’re going to rotate them.”

Jets rookie defenceman Josh Morrissey, who played a chunk of the 2015-16 season with Hellebuyck on the Manitoba Moose, said the goalie doesn’t get rattled, even after a puck gets past him.

“What makes Helley great is he’s so calm. Nothing fazes him. If it does, he doesn’t show it. That gives you confidence to have that guy behind you,” he said. “He got the same expression whether he makes a big save or not.

“Helley’s great, and I think (Thursday) you can never just pin it on one guy. We made some mistakes and gave up some chances, and we had chances as well to score, and they didn’t go in, and that’s just the way the game goes. He’s a calm guy… that’s a big quality, in my mind, to have as a goalie.”

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).


Updated on Friday, November 18, 2016 8:48 PM CST: adds photos

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