Goaltending fuel for Jets’ flagging confidence


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Being a thief can sometimes be a good thing, as Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck showed when he stopped his team’s five-game losing skid Sunday, robbing the Nashville Predators with a 42-save performance in a 3-0 win.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/12/2016 (2371 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Being a thief can sometimes be a good thing, as Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck showed when he stopped his team’s five-game losing skid Sunday, robbing the Nashville Predators with a 42-save performance in a 3-0 win.

While this was a huge relief to both the NHL team and its fans, it took 69 blocked shots — 27 by Jets skaters — to nail down the two points. It was a courageous effort, but not something that suggested Winnipeg is back on its best game. The Jets looked like they’re still searching for confidence — both individually and as a team, including the coaches.

Players mentioned this as they struggled on a recent winless road trip and looked to fight their way out. Unfortunately for them, it’s not something that’s kept in a jar and left in their stall, ready to be applied before each game.

MARK HUMPHREY / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck reaches for the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.

A player can be cruising along, confident in his own abilities, but if panicky teammates constantly put him in bad situations, he is vulnerable to being dragged down. Whether it’s because they give him the puck when they are bailing out (passing along a problem under pressure) or they start turning the puck over in terrible situations, the confident player becomes more tentative. If that player can’t make a clean play with the puck, it’s not long before he becomes infected as well.

This is when veterans need to lead, because they know they have to continue the right course (following systems, working hard no matter what, etc., as cliché as it may be) as they know it will come back to them — they just don’t know when.

In Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, you could see some Jets players were having better luck controlling pucks that had been bouncing around in previous games.

But how did they get to this fragile condition after gaining nine out of 10 possible points before the disastrous 0-5 mid-November road trip?

They played an inspired game against the Philadelphia Flyers Nov. 17 and lost, but then came Boston (Nov. 19) and a complete non-effort by the Jets.

Head coach Paul Maurice shouldered the blame for that one, saying he didn’t properly prepare his squad. Maybe. They had the previous day off, and he’s escaped scrutiny thus far due to the schedule and injury excuses.

(On a personal note, I’ve woken up from a pre-game nap after feeling good earlier knowing immediately something wasn’t right and not being able to correct it before the game. But I don’t remember my whole team going through that on the same night.)

As the Jets changed cities, the small negatives when they were winning were magnified, particularly the passing and creativity. Then they decided to give us a new spin on stupidity in a 5-1 loss to Nashville to close out the trip Nov. 25: looking for retribution for a bad hit, the two points be damned.

Coaches can try to help players get out of non-confidence mode, but effectiveness varies. Beyond offering a pat on the back and remaining positive, they can move guys around to different lines. Maurice’s “line blender” is always ready, but he didn’t have any answers as the trip went from bad to worse.

This confidence thing works both ways, as coaches lose it in players (and maybe in themselves, at times) while they struggle to find solutions.

The club is in desperation mode on the power play.

The first unit the Jets sent out Tuesday against the Devils (top centres Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little and Adam Lowry, along with Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler) was the coaches throwing spaghetti at the wall, hoping something would stick — a sure sign they lack faith in this particular process.

Little’s recent return from injury is a confidence-builder for players and coaches alike, bringing some veteran calm into the mix just by walking into the room.

With forward Mathieu Perreault and defenceman Tobias Enstrom back in action Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers, confidence likely jumped again. I look for improvement each week, and the Jets made a little progress since my last column, albeit after they fell off a cliff the week before.

Confidence is fleeting and the Jets are getting their mojo back slowly. They’ll need a few more heists, but most of all, consistently good goaltending is required to remain relevant.

Hellebuyck is the best confidence-builder they have. Hopefully, he’s up to the task.


Chosen ninth overall by the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and first overall by the WHA’s Houston Aeros in 1977, Scott Campbell has now been drafted by the Winnipeg Free Press to play a new style of game.

Twitter: @NHL_Campbell


Scott Campbell

Scott Campbell

Scott was a member of Winnipeg Jets 1.0 for a couple of seasons and also played for the WHA Jets team that won the last Avco Cup in 1978-79.


Updated on Thursday, December 1, 2016 8:11 PM CST: updated

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