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Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Trouble With Connor Hellebuyck’s Bravado

I’ve heard many a time that goalies are a different breed. Some might even call them voodoo. I understand that it takes a certain kind of mentality to willingly stand in front of a target that multiple people are shooting hard rubber discs at in an effort to stop them.

I also understand that the media getting comments from players on the losing side of a game played not just fifteen minutes earlier is such a foolish exercise. Guys are emotional, they’re frustrated and / or angry, they’re tired and a little bit beat up and yet they have to answer such mind-numbing questions as “What went wrong out there?” (They scored more than we did?) and “Is there anything different you guys could have done?” (Uh, I guess scoring more than they did would have probably helped.)

So it’s with that in mind that I never try to take too much from post-game comments made by players and especially goalies and I’ve really tried not to read too much into comments made by Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, but his comments after his performance on Thursday night against the New York Rangers – where he allowed five goals on 31 shots faced for an .839 save percentage – were to irksome to ignore.

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“I liked a lot of my game,” Hellebuyck said after the game, “I felt like I earned better. I felt like I played a lot better than five goals against. Of course, you always want to win. I’m not happy with losing at all. Don’t mistake me saying I like my game thinking I’m happy with what the result was tonight. I gotta do something because five (goals) is unacceptable.”

“If I look back at my tape, I probably won’t do a whole lot different.”

I don’t know what the most ideal answer is to an open ended question like “Talk about your game tonight” is, but I certain that saying that you liked a lot of your game isn’t the answer to go with.

It’s not all on Hellebuyck

Of course Hellebuyck had a tough night against the Rangers, but it wasn’t all on him. As we’ve seen through the first three games of the season, the Jets defense is in a word, brutal. A quick look at the all-situations heat map for the game would show just how much work the Rangers got in around the slot area and in front of the Jets net…

Courtesy: NaturalStatTrick.com

Hellebuyck had to deal with screens, bad bounces and deflections. He also noted that in his post-game comments and he wasn’t wrong, but to that point, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist faced many of the same issues and a higher number of shots – 16 more to be exact – and managed to make more stops.

No matter how you chop it up, Hellebuyck was out played by a goalie who is still one of the best in the game, but is also supposed to be on the downside of his 15 year career.

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Which is what makes his post-game comments even more frustrating. There was nothing to “like” about that game. No, you don’t want Hellebuyck to rip apart his game and fall on his sword, but you also don’t want to hear that the goalie doesn’t feel like he needs to change anything.

At first I had wondered if it was just me that thought that way, but as TSN’s Frank Seravalli also noted, saying there was nothing to change after giving up five goals in a game is not the best thing to say.

Have others taken notice?

Paul Maurice noted that Hellebuyck’s comments after the Rangers game were “mild” compared to previous statements he’s made, but Maurice then went right back to Laurent Brossoit against the Islanders after his start in New Jersey when past Maurice history and convention suggests that Hellebuyck as the team’s number one starter gets put back in goal to right the ship.

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Part of that no doubt is showing confidence in Brossoit, but it may have also been a message to Connor Hellebuyck. Regardless of the Jets defensive situation – maybe even because of it – the Jets need Hellebuyck at his best and if his message to everyone after giving up five goals was he didn’t think or know how he could have been any better, than that’s not good enough.

Hellebuyck will likely be back in goal Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, we’ll see then if the message was received. If he struggles yet again, it will be worth seeing if Hellebuyck displays the same bravado he did on Thursday night, or if there starts to be an acknowledgment of needing to be better.

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