The fairy tale story continued for Jets’ rookie goaltender, Michael Hutchinson.
The 24-year-old native of Barrie, Ont. scratched another item off his professional hockey bucket list Thursday night, beating theNHL’s best Boston Bruins 2-1 in a shootout to earn his first-ever NHL victory between the pipes.
If earning a standing ovation from a sold-out MTS Centre crowd in the final home game of the year wasn’t enough, what made it even more special for Hutchinson was that it came against a Bruins team that drafted him in 2008, only to cut ties with him at the end of last season.
“When I found out I was getting the start [I thought] this is the game where I really want to get my first win and show them what they gave up on and I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out,” said Hutchinson, who finished with 32 saves and stopped all three shooters in the shootout.
It was Hutchinson’s second straight start in net for the Jets. On Monday, he allowed just one goal on 17 shots but suffered the loss in 1-0 game to Minnesota. He looked poised in his first game, evident in the number of saves he made in close, but coach Paul Maurice still didn’t feel he faced enough shots to warrant a proper evaluation.
Boost in confidence
Surely, a game against the high-powered Bruins offence would provide a real test – one that Hutchinson passed with flying colours, and of course, nice saves, including five from the future Hall-of-Famer Jarome Iginla.
“That’s the goaltending we need it to be for our group,” said Maurice. “They go as hard as they can and when the break down happens, that’s when your goalie comes in and stops it.”
For Hutchinson, the game was simply another boost to his confidence, and proof he could compete with the best in the world.
“Boston is one of the top teams in the league this year and being able to play well against them goes a long way for your confidence, knowing you can play in this league,” he said. “When you can make saves on a guy like Jarome Iginla, it’s just an added bonus.”
Hutchinson credits his play partly on the result of putting in the extra work with goalie coach Wade Flaherty after Monday’s loss. Together, they watched film and assessed his technique. It also helped calm his nerves of being in the spotlight.
Enjoying every minute
What may be most impressive with Hutchinson is his ability to savour the moment.
Since being acquired by the Jets on March 30 he’s been a sponge, soaking up every last minute he can, breezing through the stress of growing expectations while always wearing a smile.
He possesses the kind of attitude needed in the Jets locker room; the proper mentality the room has lacked for better parts of three seasons. It’s something his new teammates have taken notice of, and why he’s earned the respect from his peers in such a short amount of time.
“Hutchy was unbelievable and I’m so happy for him,” said Jets defenceman Mark Stuart. “As a team we really wanted that for him and I couldn’t be happier for him.”
“He was outstanding,” added Blake Wheeler, who set up Evander Kane for the game-tying goal with 1:57 to go in the third period.
“He really kept us in the game. They had some point-blank opportunities to add to their lead and put us away and he gave us an opportunity to tie the game. He was outstanding tonight and he should feel really good about himself 'cause he played awesome.”
The decision to start Hutchinson in Friday’s game against the Flames has already been approved by Maurice. Now, it’s just whether or not he feels he can play. If he’s good to go, he’s in.
“We want to put him in a position to have success,” said Maurice. “If he feels good he’ll be in the net [Friday] night. He’s earned that right.”
With the win, the Jets improve to 18-17-10 at the MTS Centre, making it officially the worst season on home ice for the Jets since the move from Atlanta three years ago.
The Jets best season at home came in their inaugural year in 2011-12, when they finished 23-13-5.
Andrew Ladd missed his second game with an elbow injury and has been ruled out for Friday’s match against Calgary. Dustin Byfuglien is also done for the year with an upper body injury.
Iginla returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with a lower body injury. Patrice Bergeron and captain Zdeno Chara were both given the night off for Boston.
Devin Setoguchi has left the team to address what is being called a “private matter.” It is still unclear whether he will be back in time for Friday’s game against the Flames.
First: Michael Hutchinson, WPG
He was all smiles in the dressing room after the game, and for good reason. The 24 year old earned his first NHL win in just his second career start against his former team, stopping 32 pucks in the game plus all three shooters in the shootout.
Second: Chad Johnson, BOS
He was a last minute call-in for Bruins’ No. 1 Tuukka Rask and he did his club proud. Johnson made 36 saves in the loss and gave his team a chance to win the game.
Third: Blake Wheeler, WPG
Also a former Bruin, Wheeler stuck it to his old team by setting up Evander Kane in the slot for the game-tying goal with 1:57 to go in the third period. It was just another clutch performance from the Jets' best player all season.