Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck figures there will be nights when he has too much time on his hands.

Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck figures there will be nights when he has too much time on his hands.

Unlike the dilemma created in that silly Styx song, the Winnipeg Jets goalie says he's developing a list of techniques to avoid such a calamity. 

"I was thinking after the (Wednesday) game that I’m gonna have to get used to games like this because the style we’re playing and the team we’ve built is different than in preview years where now I might not be needed as much," Hellebuyck said Thursday.

Attribute that to a massive weakness finally addressed by Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who significantly bolstered the blue-line crew during the off-season. He did it not by tossing money at big-name free agents but by swapping assets for proven talent, in the form of Nate Schmidt and Brenden Dillon.

Dillon is a 6-4 defensive specialist who is expected to play big minutes, while Schmidt offers more offensive punch. Both are terrific passers, who should be able to retrieve and advance the puck quicker than Derek Forbort and Tucker Poolman could.

Schmidt joins Josh Morrissey on one pairing, while Dillon partners with Neal Pionk on another. Dylan DeMelo is a sound third-pairing guy, while Nathan Beaulieu, Logan Stanley and Ville Heinola give head coach Paul Maurice plenty of viable options.

Now, there's a cap on what bubbles up from a pre-season contest. Hellebuyck said as much, refusing to get too fired up about the potential for far less mayhem in his general vicinity.

But with its regular-season roster pretty much intact, Winnipeg put in a dominant performance against the visiting Calgary Flames, registering a 3-2 pre-season victory that was one those 'objects in the mirror are closer than they appear' situations.

The Jets outshot their Western Conference rivals 40-18, leaving Hellebuyck with lots of time to collect his thoughts.

"I gotta be ready when I am (needed)," Hellebuyck added. "I thought the guys in front of me played great. The team defence was awesome. Maybe a breakdown here and there, and that’s what I’m there for. So, I gotta start preparing mentally for that, and I know the guys around me are all doing their job."

Hellebuyck's toughest task in the opening frame was remaining lucid, as he needed to make just three saves.

He turned aside a Dillon Dube shot at the 2:10 mark and then went nearly 12 minutes without being tested before stopping Chris Tanev and Matthew Tkachuk in a seven-second span. Another 10 minutes elapsed before Erik Gudbrandson let a drive go from well out at 2:04 of the second period that was handled easily by the 2020 Vezina Trophy winner.

Leisurely outings have been out of the norm for Hellebuyck, who faced 30 or more shots in half of his 45 starts in the all-Canadian division last season. In 15 of his assignments, the Jets gave up 35 shots. Three times, he was shelled by over 40.

Marc-Andre Fleury, last season's MVP netminder, had just six starts with a workload of at least 35 shots while suiting up up with the Vegas Golden Knights. 

Winnipeg's starter has always maintained he's at his best when the job jar is overflowing. It's how he stays razor sharp in a position that demands near perfection. It's the reason his club's record was 30-23-3.

But the plan has always been to cut down on the amount of prime scoring chances the Jets allow, and there's a genuine opportunity for that to happen this season.

"I hope that’s true. I mean, that’s the goal. We’d love for him to be bored in the net some nights," said Maurice. "That’s what we’re shooting for. We think we’ve got a blue line and some maturity up front that we can be tougher to get to the net on."

If that happens, Hellebuyck will need to adjust to that colossal shift. But the 28-year-old Michigan product said he won't be affected by lulls created around his crease,

"I like a little bit of uncomfortable feelings in my game because then I know I’m doing something right and living on the edge," he said. "When I get those details, I have to make sure my tightness and my hands are all in the right spot, nothing’s lagging behind."

A pair of goals in rapid succession by Glenn Gawdin and Andrew Mangiapane was a stark reminder that things can change in a hurry.

"I liked the game I had (Wednesday) because it allowed me to identify some small details that I need to iron out in my game," he said. "So, I’m close. It’s never perfect and it’s never going to be perfect, but the closer I get to perfect is what I strive for."

The Jets and Flames meet Friday at Scotiabank Saddledome in the final pre-season test for both squads. Game time is 8 p.m CT. Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant 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).