On an unprecedented day in the world of sports where almost everything is being turned on it’s head if not outright suspended due to the concerns over COVID-19, it’s almost fitting that the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers played in a game that didn’t feel like it was really happening. The game’s first three goals came off of awful gaffes committed by the defending team around their nets, and the third period saw the game winner scored after a bad turnover from Leon Draisaitl.
And no one knows if any of this even matters or not. After days of speculation, the NBA suspended their entire season due to the ongoing health crisis and it would be crazy if the NHL didn’t do the same within a 24 hour period. What that means going forward is anyone’s guess. Did this Jets win to vault them back into the first wild card spot lock in a playoff position? Will the NHL just pick up where the league left off if they do suspend things? Maybe we all go 1919 on everyone and just decide not to award the Stanley Cup at all?
I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. What I do know though is the Jets finally have their first four game win streak of the season, and that Connor Hellebuyck is really good.
Turns out, Connor is the MVP
If Hellebuyck wasn’t in the conversation for league MVP before, his performance against the Oilers and the supposed front runner of Hart Trophy consideration Leon Draisaitl, should have opened a bunch of people’s eyes.
Quite simply, the Jets don’t win this game without his work. One could argue he made things a little bit harder on himself with a bad puck handling display that crossed up himself and his two teammates beside him that led to a 1-0 Oilers lead at the start of the second period, but beyond that he made 33 saves – 29 of those in the second and third period – and overall was spectacular.
The Jets gave up 13 high danger scoring chances to the Oilers in those final two periods and there was more than one “how did the Oilers not score there?” moment (one we can for sure say was because of Neal Pionk’s quick stick). The final 15 minutes of the game was a textbook case of a Jets team playing not to give up a goal, which almost always means a goal is about to happen because you can’t play hockey like that, but the Jets got out of Edmonton grasping on to a 3-2 victory.
And it was because of Hellebuyck.
Another solid start
Despite the game remaining 0-0 after the first 20 minutes, I thought the Jets were by far the better club in the first period and probably would have had a lead if not for the work of Mike Smith. It was the only period where they out-shot the Oilers 12-7 and it could have been more if the Jets hadn’t given up a penalty and then spent the next two minutes trying to survive the Oilers power play. The only criticism is that the Jets didn’t get to Oilers net as often as they should have and for sure not as often as the Oilers did even in that first period.
But given how bad the first period has been for the Jets almost all season, this one wasn’t as awful and as of late we’ve had a lot more “better” first periods from the Jets than not.
Is this it?
What a strange time in sports and life in general. Facing down a pandemic the likes of which I don’t believe we’ve seen for decades, it’s almost a certainty the NHL will do the right thing and shut everything down at least for a few weeks until we flatten the curve. A few weeks? A couple of months? Will it lead to a cancellation of the season? Will the NHL at some point come back and skip right to the playoffs, and if they do, how do they determine who is in – especially among the four or five teams fighting for the final spots?
No one knows because we’re all in very much uncharted water in terms of how to handle this. If nothing else, at least the Jets found a way to make sure that their final potentially last game of the season was a winning one.
And Connor Hellebuyck should be the MVP.