Hellebuyck driven by confidence

Jets netminder's self-assurance is endearing to his teammates

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Connor Hellebuyck rarely, if ever, takes a self-deprecating approach to explaining the state of his play between the pipes

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/01/2021 (666 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Connor Hellebuyck rarely, if ever, takes a self-deprecating approach to explaining the state of his play between the pipes

The Winnipeg Jets starter likes his game. Always.

He liked it as head coach Paul Maurice was giving him the early hook exactly eight times during the 2016-17 NHL season.

Connor Hellebuyck currently has a 2.60 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. (John Woods / The Canadian Press files)

He liked it while posting six shutouts the very next season, winning 44 games and leading the Jets to a spot in the 2018 Western Conference final.

And he really liked it during the 2019-20 campaign when he captured the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s premier puck-stopper.

The Michigan product, who turns 28 in May, is driven by confidence — a belief in himself and the unwavering trust of teammates — even during some temporary struggles.

He wasn’t sharp during the opening period against Edmonton on Tuesday, allowing three goals on seven shots, but clamped down and surrendered only one the rest of the way, a brilliant tally by Connor McDavid, as the Jets prevailed 6-4 over the visiting Oilers.

Now 4-1 and likely primed for his sixth start of the season Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks, Hellebuyck maintains he’s encouraged by his early work, and believes he’s been on the mark more often than not. But there’s room for improvement. 

“I like a lot of things in my play and there are a lot of things I can clean up. That’s what the early season is like for a goaltender. You start cleaning things up as you get beat. I’m looking forward to putting a full 60 (minutes) together,” he said Friday. “There’s a lot of good things I have in my game. There’s a lot of things I’ve been working on.

“You don’t want to falter (with) your confidence at all, especially not in this shortened season and a shortened window to get it back, really. So I’m going to keep my confidence high, keep winning games, do whatever it takes and it might be a bunch of high-scoring games but wins are going to be the most important part of the season.”

Hellebuyck, currently owning a 2.60 goals-against average and .906 save percentage, doesn’t bash himself publicly but used to be hard on himself behind closed doors. But he’s far more resilient than he used to be.  

“The biggest thing is to accept that you faltered a bit and then flip the switch. It’s just an expression but for me, it means a whole lot because when I flip the switch, I’ve accepted it, I’ve put it behind me and now it’s a fresh game and it’s a fresh start,” he said. 

His self-assurance is endearing to the fellows that battle in front of him.

“He’s just confident. He’s growing up, he’s maturing and he’s incredibly confident in himself. You can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have a goaltender who believes in himself,” offered captain Blake Wheeler. “The best goalies I’ve played with, no matter what the goal was, it was never their fault. That’s a great quality to have as a goalie because it’s easy to wipe the slate clean when it’s never your fault.

“He’s got a bit of that and any goal that goes by him, he thinks that it’s lucky and we love all of those things about (Hellebuyck). He’s the pillar for our team back there, and he gives us a chance to win every single night.”

***

Former Jets forward Jack Roslovic was held pointless in games Thursday and Friday for the Blue Jackets, while Patrik Laine arrived in Columbus on Friday afternoon after a work visa snafu and could play Tuesday against the visiting Dallas Stars.

Winnipeg, however, continues to wait patiently for its return in last weekend’s swap of superstars to join the group. Pierre-Luc Dubois is self-isolating, a strange kind of post-trade purgatory during the COVID-19 pandemic, and will do so for another week unless the Jets receive an exemption to existing Canadian health protocols.

Connor Hellebuyck likes his game, even when he isn't playing well. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Maurice said the club has yet to hear back from the feds.

“We have no new news on that front, so we’ll plan accordingly as the full 14-day (quarantine),” he said.

Dubois hasn’t skated since late in the first period of the Blue Jackets’ 3-2 overtime defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 21. That night, the 22-year-old centre received just 3:55 of ice time before being benched by head coach John Tortorella.

The trade to Winnipeg was consummated 36 hours later. 

Without an exemption, the earliest Dubois could be pencilled into the Jets lineup is Tuesday, Feb. 9 in Calgary, although Maurice hinted the power forward won’t be rushed in.

“That’s a long time to be off the ice, so we’ll get him on the ice and make an assessment from there,” said Maurice, who celebrates his 54th birthday Saturday.

***

Jets defenceman Tucker Poolman has been removed from the NHL’s COVID-19 Protocol-Related Absence list.

He’s been sidelined since Jan. 16 after playing the season-opener against the Calgary Flames.

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).

History

Updated on Friday, January 29, 2021 5:55 PM CST: Adds Poolman info

Updated on Friday, January 29, 2021 9:29 PM CST: Makes minor change

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