Hellebuyck unflappable

Confident keeper not letting bad outing get him down as Jets prepare for Leafs rematch

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Connor Hellebuyck expressed Friday what he and his Winnipeg Jets teammates need to exhibit on the ice their next time out. 

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/04/2021 (654 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Connor Hellebuyck expressed Friday what he and his Winnipeg Jets teammates need to exhibit on the ice their next time out. 

Sheer defiance.

The Jets’ all-star goalie gave up two goals on Toronto’s first two shots by Auston Matthews and Wayne Simmonds before Thursday night’s contest at Bell MTS Place was even 80 seconds old, and then surrendered another on a redirection by Jason Spezza, just the sixth shot he faced.

It was not the stuff of a reigning Vezina Trophy winner.

He was immediately summoned to the bench by head coach Paul Maurice and given the rest of the night to observe, while Laurent Brossoit took over the crease.

Toronto eventually prevailed 5-3.

Hellebuyck wasn’t visibly perturbed, tapping gloves with his goalie partner as they passed each other before heading down the tunnel. But he was, presumably, seething inside.

A day later, he insisted the goaltending change was off target. 

“It was a 3-2 game, and I don’t think I should have been pulled. That’s as far as I’ll go on that,” said the league’s top netminder of the 2019-20 campaign, in a Zoom chat with reporters after practice.

But he, indeed, went further.

“Yeah, I want (Maurice) to know how competitive I am, and how much I want that, you know? I mean, I don’t think they were bad goals (Thursday) night. Do I want some of them? Of course. You look at my entire career, I want a lot of those goals back. All I can do today is learn from it, get better and be better for (Saturday),” he said.

“Like I said, I don’t think (it) was an off-game. I felt fine in the net. I’m not going to lie and say I was A-plus material, but I thought the game that I had was good enough to win. And it was only going to get better if I was given the opportunity to grow in that game. That’s as far as I’ll go on that.”

Hellebuyck’s sure to get an immediate shot at redemption. The Jets and Leafs collide at 6 p.m. Saturday, their ninth of 10 meetings in 2021 in the all-Canadian division.

Toronto (29-13-5) leads the North, while Winnipeg (27-16-3) remains six points back. The Edmonton Oilers (27-16-2) trail the Jets by a point and are off this weekend. 

Grinning widely, Maurice said he wasn’t shocked by Hellebuyck’s comments and clearly felt they didn’t verge on insubordinate conduct.

“There would not be a night going back to his first year that he got pulled and he thought he should have been pulled. In his mind, he’s going to stop the next 75 shots he faces,” he said.

Hellebuyck isn’t alone in needing to push back.

The Jets as a collective went gentle into that not-so-good night, despite being on the receiving of some nastiness doled out by the visitors.

Adam Lowry, Mathieu Perreault and Josh Morrissey were all on the receiving end of some physical play by the Leafs that crossed the line. 

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyckhas never been one to let a sub-par outing affect his confidence.

Lowry didn’t practice and his condition is still being assessed after took a hit to the head from Toronto forward Alex Galchenyuk late in the first period and missed the final 40 minutes.

“He’s still going through testing and I’ll have a better idea (Saturday),” Maurice said.

Galchenyuk wasn’t penalized on the play, received nary a noxious glare from Lowry’s brethren and then escaped any supplementary discipline from the league Friday.

But 41-year-old Joe Thornton was fined $3,017.24 for a nailing Perreault when the Winnipeg winger was away from the puck and vulnerable. He serve an interference penalty for the third-period infraction, while Perreault missed a couple of shifts before returning. 

Pierre-Luc Dubois, who went after former Columbus teammate and newest Leaf forward Nick Foligno for a borderline hit on Josh Morrissey near the boards, said Winnipeg must adopt more of a mean streak, particularly with the postseason quickly approaching.

“They’re a talented team, but they compete hard, they play physical when they have to. You mentioned a few plays and I remember a few other plays in my head,” he said. “You have to play a talented game, but we have that. We also have that physical game. It’s a card that you can play and I’ve always said in the playoffs, the teams that win are the teams that don’t just have one identity, they can play multiple kinds of games.

“We’re also not just a one-dimensional team. It’s a good matchup every night and I mean, if it gets physical, we can definitely follow that game also.”

If there was an uptick in rough play by the Jets after Lowry was shelved, it was hardly discernible. No one’s suggesting a two-hander to Galchenyuk’s ankle or butt-end to Big Joe’s furry jawline would have been appropriate responses.

But some kind of pushback should be expected in the rematch.

“I’ve got lots of faith in our heart, character, chemistry, and stick-to-itiveness. We’re chasing a game. We’re trying to win it. Guys get banged up. We’ll bang their guys up, they’ll bang our guys up,” said Maurice. “The game doesn’t turn on that where they’re not running us out of our building.

“The league can handle that stuff. We would never get involved in circling a name.”

Perhaps, the Jets really are the bullies, after all.

Simmonds had an interesting rebuttal to the suggestion by a Toronto scribe that folks in Winnipeg have labelled the Leafs cheap-shot artists.

“Every time we’ve played them, they’ve tried to come and run us out of the building to start games. So, we come back and we’re physical and now we’re a dirty team? I don’t buy that,” said the Leafs’ rugged forward. “I just think we’re defending ourselves.”

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

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jets forward Mathieu Perreault missed a number of shifts Thursday after being in the wrong end of a questionable hit from Joe Thornton.
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).

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Updated on Friday, April 23, 2021 9:26 PM CDT: Adds missing word

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