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This article was published 28/12/2018 (799 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Connor Hellebuyck is sick of dealing with crease crashers.
The Winnipeg Jets goalie went on the offensive Friday, saying the NHL isn’t protecting netminders from players trying to find an edge when it comes to scoring goals. Hellebuyck sounded off after Calgary’s Noah Hanifin kneed him in the head during Thursday night’s game, knocking his mask off.
"I covered the puck and the guy came right across me. My question is, why is there no penalty on that? It’s not like I dove in front of him. He wasn’t pushed in. He just made a dumb route. You see that more coming around this game. People aren’t really afraid around the goalies anymore," Hellebuyck said.
"You can see in the young guys, like (Matthew) Tkachuk. Tries to push me into the net. It’s ridiculous. Something needs to be called or something needs to be changed with the goalies. We’re players, too."
Jets head coach Paul Maurice has noticed contact between players and goalies on the rise as the lines get blurred about what constitutes interference, especially regarding goals that come under video review.
"As the threshold of contact that’s been allowed has changed slightly, this is just anecdotal from watching the reviewed goals, it seems like they’re allowing a bit more contact. And you’re just going to see more contact," Maurice said.
The veteran coach said there’s an easy way to fix that.
"Well, the first thought is you’d let the people who get paid to deal with it deal with it. The officials can clean that up. And, for the most part, I think you find there’ll be a few goalie interference penalties and they’ll knock it down a little bit," Maurice said.
Some wondered why Hellebuyck wasn’t briefly pulled out of the game by the independent concussion spotter after taking the blow from Hanifin. According to Hellebuyck, he told his trainer that he was OK and that message was conveyed to the eye in the sky.
"I felt fine. I stood right up. I just needed a second to put my mask back on. I absorbed the blow a little bit. And it wasn’t like my head smashed on anything. So, it was discretionary. It was up to me, and I felt good," said Hellebuyck, who isn’t expecting anything to change.
"They’re really reckless in front of the goalie now. They don’t really care, because they know they don’t call as many interferences as they should, and not as many penalties — and not as many fights. So, the guys just do what they want. I think, in the back of everyone’s mind (is), ‘I can get away with a little more here. I’m going to start taking it,’" Hellebuyck said.
"(NHL officials) don’t want it to change. They like the goals. They want more goals and want to take more from us."
Hellebuyck will get another shot at his 100th career regular-season win when the Jets host the Minnesota Wild today at Bell MTS Place. He’s a fan of matinee starts.
"I get a good sleep in. I wake up at a pretty routine time. Get a good breakfast in me. And then I don’t skate in the morning, so I’ve got energy. I have all this energy built up, and then when we get to the game, it’s right around that time when your lunch kicks in, your breakfast kicks in. You just feel a lot of energy when you come to the rink," said Hellebuyck, who is 16-10-1 on the year with a 2.91 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.
With his team 11-3-0 in its past 14, Hellebuyck feels his game took a big jump in December after a slow start.
"I built my game to a good spot. And I was trying to ask so much more out of myself, and I needed to take a step back and rebuild it, and say, ‘OK, don’t do too much.’ And, once I finally figured that out, I was able to get comfortable and calm in the net and that’s when December happened," Hellebuyck said.
Backup Laurent Brossoit has been brilliant in limited duty, with a 8-1-1 record, 2.11 GAA and .939 SV%. Hellebuyck isn’t surprised at the success of his friend and off-season training partner.
"I know he’s a good goalie, and I see him in the summer all the time. It’s phenomenal. We have the same habits, and we have great communication. So, we’re always on the same page with a lot of things. The way he’s thinking, the way his mindset is, he’s right," he said.
"He’s got that fighter mentality right now. He’s fun to watch. It’s good to see."
BYFUGLIEN FINED: Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien was slapped with a US$2,500 fine Friday for slashing Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau in the waning minutes of Thursday’s game. Gaudreau completed a hat trick on the play by scoring on an empty net.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.