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Connor Hellebuyck says he was playing the best hockey in his career: Jets end of season media availability

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Photo credit:© Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Connor Baldwin
1 month ago
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After a full day off, the Winnipeg Jets were back this morning to clean out their lockers and do their season media availabilities. It was sooner than the team would’ve liked to have been doing so, but it’s a necessary part of the season to collect some final thoughts from some of the players before they head off on their off-season lives. Captain Adam Lowry and starting goalie Connor Hellebuyck were the 1st of several pairs of players who spoke to the media. Both Lowry and Hellebuyck made some great comments, but it was Hellebuyck’s that caught the most attention from the media thus far.
Before I summarize and break down for you what Hellebuyck said, for context I should remind you of his numbers in the post-season. You probably have seen them, but in case you haven’t, Hellebuyck went 1-4 with a 5.23 GAA and a .864 SV%. On the surface, the numbers look pretty bad, but if you watched the team in front of Hellebuyck, they didn’t help him out much. Either way, maybe the numbers could be better justified by Hellebuyck’s media comments made this morning.
The very 1st question that was asked by the media for Hellebuyck had to do with what he thought about his performance in this series, on an individual basis, rather than the analytics, and Hellebuyck said
“Ya, you know, you’re probably not going to believe what I say, I was playing the best hockey in my career. Truly, I was feeling it, not only was I playing some of my best hockey, but I was in that zone where you’re not thinking, you’re just playing. That’s what you seek after, it’s a dangerous thing in sports. To not be able to keep 4 goals off the board, it’s heartbreaking.”
Hellebuyck’s response certainly caught the media off guard a little, and looking around social media, people obviously didn’t seem to agree with him when they looked up his playoff numbers. It’s one thing to look from the outside at a player and only focus on their stats. It’s an entirely different thing to ask a player how they thought they played and hear an honest assessment from them on their game.
Hellebuyck did credit to the Avalanche for making it tough for him out there, but he’s right in saying that it’s disappointing to not have the numbers match how we felt he was performing out there on the ice.
A little bit later into the media availability, Hellebuyck was asked to clarify a bit further on what he meant by he was playing some of his “best hockey in his career”. In terms of how Hellebuyck felt that the games didn’t go his way, he said
“I feel like a lot of those games I was stealing some goals. That being said, I’m not going to go and tell you I don’t want to be better, I absolutely need to be better if we’re going to win. I can’t be giving up that many goals, but I’m looking, when I’m watching video, looking back at my games, I’m not seeing a goal like, oh I got to have that [one].”
That may just be part of being a goalie when the playoffs begin. Everything in the playoffs gets analyzed and amplified so much that if the players focus on the details too much it starts getting in their heads. A tough part about being a goalie is being super picky with yourself about what goals you can say you shouldn’t have let in. It’s really tough to compare similar saves, similar scenarios and similar outcomes, but in doing so Hellebuyck still feels like he was playing some really good hockey.
One of the final questions that caught my attention from this media availability toward Hellebuyck had to do with feelings. By feelings here I mean the feeling of wishing you could have to done something better at this or that moment in a game. Hellebuyck explained earlier how some of the goals were simply good deflections or nice screens, and to this question he said
“Ya, so specifically, game 4, the afternoon game, I was laser focused from the second I woke up. I was ready to steal a game. This kind of was my mindset going into every single game, but especially in game 4. When I got pulled, to give me more rest, it was like a flood of emotions that I had suppressed all series long and that was the realization that I can’t do this alone… I need to be more a part of this team than I am.”
What Hellebuyck said goes back to what I’ve talked about before in some of my pre-game articles about having the right mindset in the playoffs. Each game is its own identity, whether the regular season or playoffs, but when you’re in the playoffs there’s always an extra level of compete and focus throughout a team.
As a goalie, it’s understandable to feel like you need to be the reason that your team wins a game. After all, your job is to stop the puck from going in the net, so there’s always going to be those pre-game moments where you feel like you’re going to go out there and win one for the team. When that doesn’t happen, it can be tough on your personal mindset, but as Hellebuyck said, he realized after game 4 that he needs to feel more a part of the collective mindset of the team to help ease those internal emotions.
Hellebuyck understands that his 5 playoff games this season did not go the way he wanted them to. After hearing his comments to the media today, you should get a better understanding of what he felt like as the series progressed, particularly the mindset he had on his overall performance. Overall, Hellebuyck will be doing what the rest of the team will be doing in the coming weeks, which is using this series as a learning and teaching moment to help him build and train for next season.
Click on the hyperlink to check out the full Adam Lowry and Connor Hellebuyck end of season media availability on IllegalCurve.com.

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