Hellebuyck’s show of emotion a ‘rare occurrence’

Smashing stick after loss to Flames signals Jets goalie's displeasure with defeat

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Connor Hellebuyck wore his frustration from the night in a way rarely seen before. Following a 4-3 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames Monday night, the Winnipeg Jets goaltender smashed his stick over the crossbar, signalling his displeasure with defeat.

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This article was published 02/02/2021 (674 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Connor Hellebuyck wore his frustration from the night in a way rarely seen before. Following a 4-3 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames Monday night, the Winnipeg Jets goaltender smashed his stick over the crossbar, signalling his displeasure with defeat.

Often soft-spoken when dealing with media — and always confident in his game — Hellebuyck still needed time to reflect afterwards. He wasn’t made available for immediate post-game comment, but there he was Tuesday afternoon ready to discuss the previous night and what had him fuming mad.

“It’s more been the buildup of this season. I felt really good and I feel like I’m getting better and better every single day. And then I get into practice and I’m giving 110 per cent of my energy and my effort to show everyone around me that I’m here to improve every single day and I’m here for you guys, to be a rock,” Hellebuyck said. “Then again, some bad luck happened. All I want to do is to continue to show how bad I want it and after that first goal went in, I didn’t want that to define my game. I wanted everyone to see that I felt great in the net and that I’m still a rock back there. So to get the loss really weighed on my emotions way more than I usually let my emotions get out. So it was a rare occurrence but I think I showed everyone how much I care about this team and winning.”

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau scores the shootout-winning goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck on Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade

The 27-year-old has already established himself as one of the premier goaltenders in the NHL. He’s been nominated for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top netminder two out of the previous three seasons, edging out Boston’s Tuukka Rask and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy for the honour in 2020.

Hellebuyck has always shown confidence in himself. Rarely does he feel as if he’s played a bad game. But he admitted Tuesday the emotions of a game — or season — can get the best of you and sometimes the best remedy is to let it all out.

“It was one of the tougher ones, too, because I like to try to stay even keel and don’t let emotions get too high or too low. But I think in a moment like this, I had to just let it out and let the process take place. Let myself be angry, let myself be upset and just let it all out so I can bring it back down and get back to that even level,” he said. “I can’t hold on to those emotions forever, because they’ll just continue to build up and build up. I just needed a moment… (goalie coach Wade Flaherty) and I just talked it out and just had a moment of let it all out and then let’s get back to game time and put it behind us. We got a long season ahead of us, there’s a lot of hockey to be played and a lot of fun to be had.”

Hellebuyck’s play has varied this season. Heading into Tuesday’s action, he was 26th among NHL goalies with a 2.69 goals-against average and his .909 save percentage was good for 30th. With just seven starts this season, those numbers can change drastically from one game to the next.

Hellebuyck hasn’t dominated the crease this season like he has at times over his career, and there have been goals he’d certainly like back. Look no further than the innocent dump-in Monday from Flames defenceman Chris Tanev. Coming just seconds into the second period, the shot, which was taken from Calgary’s blue line, ended up fooling Hellebuyck. Adding insult to injury, the goal seemed to spark a comeback in the Flames, who rallied with two more goals to take the lead before the Jets tied the game late in the third period — only to lose in the shootout.

“I didn’t see it moving a whole lot. I saw it was touching the blue line and it looked like it was just skidding across the top of the ice until the last second, where it kind of picked up speed and took a wild bounce,” he said. “It sucks but I thought I responded well and I really wanted that win and I’ll just have to wait until the next one.”

Hellebuyck isn’t worried about his approach, especially after one game or what’s been a small sample size this season. He’s also been around long enough to trust his instincts. His practise habits, he said, remain on point, so when these low days occur, they just become part of the process — not something that dictates it.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice has gotten to know his goalie well. He understands Hellebuyck’s drive to want to be better, a commitment he needs to reel in from time to time. And with a long season ahead, he felt no urgency to get him back between the pipes as the Jets prepared to face off in a rematch against the Flames Tuesday night.

“Let’s be clear: in any single game he plays that he doesn’t like his game, he wants the next night. This guy wants to play every single game and has complete confidence that he can do that. I would only do something like that — I’ve got to be careful how I say this because you’ll accuse me of being worried about the guy — if I felt he really, really needed it,” Maurice said. “There’s gonna be games down the stretch in this division, because all of these teams are gonna be in the fight for it right to the last week, where you’re gonna have to double back on your goalie, you’re gonna have to play your No. 1 guy, you’re gonna have to run him. That day will come on it’s own, but I’ve got way too much confidence in this guy, way too much faith in him, that I don’t think he needs it. He wants it but I don’t think he needs it.”

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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Updated on Tuesday, February 2, 2021 7:41 PM CST: Fixes typo in deck

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