Jets column: Hellebuyck continues to impress
Hellebuyck continues to show that it’s going to be his net for a long, long time in Winnipeg
Don't look now but the Winnipeg Jets have a little bit of momentum.
Late Saturday night, rookie goaltender Connor Hellebuyck stopped 27 of 28 shots in a 4-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. The win snapped the Jets' six-game road losing drought and gave the club victories in three of its last four games.
Hellebuyck continues to show that it's going to be his net for a long, long time in Winnipeg.
The 22-year-old is now 8-4-0 with .929 save percentage since earning the recall from the Manitoba Moose and management is going to have a very difficult time holding him back even when Ondrej Pavelec returns from his lower body injury in January or February.
The only puck that beat him Saturday was a perfectly placed one-timer from Sharks defenceman Brent Burns in the second period. Other than that, there wasn't any moment in the game where it looked like or felt things were starting to get away from the Jets as they nursed their one and two-goal leads.
Hellebuyck was a big reason for that.
And he's also a big reason for any potential playoff surge many fans believe this team can generate with a successful road trip to open the new year. Winnipeg (18-18-2) is now 1-1-0 on this five-game trip, with a game in Anaheim (15-15-7) on Sunday night.
The momentum needs to continue to run if the Jets want to make one.
Other notables from Saturday night
1. Joel Armia earned a nice little memory, didn't he?
The rookie's innocent-looking backhand toward the Sharks' net was badly mishandled by goaltender Martin Jones, giving the 22-year-old his first NHL goal.
The goal, which turned out to be the game winner, was first awarded to Matt Halischuk, who looked like he got a stick on the puck as he crashed into the crease. As the night wore on, officials later changed their minds and awarded it to Armia.
The goal was also Armia's first NHL point.
2. The other goals against the Sharks also carried a little more weight than just what they represented on the scoreboard.
Drew Stafford's first period goal, a short-handed marker set up brilliantly by Blake Wheeler, was his first goal on the road in 20 games (Winnipeg has played 22 games away from MTS Centre).
Stafford's only other goal on the road this season came in the first game on the schedule in Boston. The veteran winger now has 12 goals this year.
Nikolaj Ehlers also ended his own personal dry spell, thanks to an empty net goal. The rookie had gone 14 games without a goal before breaking loose from his own zone and burying the chance; he now has six goals on the season.
And finally, Mathieu Perreault's goal (his fifth) in the second period came on the power play.
Why is this deserving of a mention? It was the first time the Jets scored on the man advantage in six road games. That's a long time.
A lot has been made of the number of penalties the team takes and the inability to kill them off. If they could find some consistency on the power play themselves, it would go a long way in negating the impact of the penalties they continue to take.
Just a thought.
3. More good news for the Jets: Mark Scheifele can come off injured reserve Sunday and if he does, look for him to be in the lineup against the Ducks.
The centre has already missed four games with a concussion, which he sustained when he collided with captain Andrew Ladd at practice after the holiday break.
His return would give Paul Maurice something to think about: Does the head coach stick with the same forward look (mixing in Scheifele somewhere in the top six) that has helped the Jets claim three of the last four games, or does he revert his offence back to how it looked before Scheifele got hurt, inserting him between Perreault and Stafford on the second line?
Answers to these questions, of course, will come if Scheifele gets cleared to play against Anaheim.
Scheifele has 12 goals and 22 points in 34 games this year.