Photo credit:Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Hellebuyck for Hart
By Goose1 month ago
Be sure to check Betway to check out the latest Jets game day odds and bet on the NHL! The Hart Trophy is awarded to the most valuable player of the National Hockey League every year. With Kyle Connor missing a little more than a month, the front runner for the Winnipeg Jets’ MVP race is Connor Hellebuyck by a couple of country miles.
Let’s skip the Vezina talks for Connor Hellebuyck. With his performance in the first half of the season, there shouldn’t even be a conversation for the Vezina trophy this season; it just goes to Hellebuyck. In his first 32 games played this season, he has a 2.19 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. Both stats are the best in the NHL this season among goaltenders.
Let’s go back to October; Hellebuyck was well below a .900 save percentage in four of his first eight starts of the season. The stress of signing a big contract was sitting on the Jets’ starting goaltender’s shoulders, plus the rust of the off-season hadn’t come off yet. If you ingore those four bad games for Hellebuyck, his numbers have been ELITE.
Thirty-plus games of allowing three goals or less give any team a chance to win. The players are getting the goals they need. The Jets are 12th in the NHL when it comes to goals per game at 3.33. It’s not a bad stat, but if the Jets had an average goaltender, they wouldn’t be fighting for first in the NHL, hell they might be fighting for a wildcard playoff spot.
Vlad Namestnikov was asked about Hellebuyck’s name coming up in Hart conversations and said, “He’s deserved it, hopefully that continues, and he wins the award.”
Dallas Stars starting goaltender Jake Oettinger has played five fewer games than Hellebuyck. Both goaltenders will probably represent Team USA at the next major international tournament; they have each allowed 70 goals against. Oettinger is a comparable goaltender to Hellebuyck and is still blown out of the water by him.
I know the Hart is typically given to a player over a goaltender, but let’s start looking at who else could be in Hart contention.
In 2023, Connor McDavid won the Hart by scoring 153 points in 82 games and led his team to the post season. The year before, Auston Matthews won it by scoring 106 points in 73 games. Those are your post-Covid winners, and they went above and beyond for their teams, which probably wouldn’t have been playoff contenders without them.
Nikita Kucherov is on pace for 139 points this season. Even if we knock it back to 120 points, that’s not too shabby and keeps up with Matthews’ win in 2022. The downside to Kucherov is he might not be on a playoff team. The Tampa Bay Lightning have their backs against the wall as they are one point away from falling out of the final wild-card spot in the east, and the Washington Capitals have two games in hand with three teams behind them who could take advantage and snag that final playoff spot.
No playoffs would sink Kucherov’s ship for the Hart.
McDavid for another Hart makes sense, the way he and the Edmonton Oilers have played in the second quarter of the season and the way they are keeping it up through the start of the third quarter. If McDavid scores 120 points after a bad start, I could see the media getting excited for the best player in the world and giving it to him once again.
It’s so hard to argue against McDavid being the NHL’s MVP. When he was bad and injured, the team failed, and it was almost embarrassing to watch Oilers hockey. McDavid is the heart and soul of his team, and when he’s not feeling it, the team suffers. Not that McDavid has many off nights. Unless there is another McDavid injury, I don’t see how he can lose to Hellebuyck.
It’s hard to give anyone in Vancouver or Colorado the Hart conversation since those teams have so much high-end talent in several key players, but they’re not quite the elite talent like previously mentioned players. Nathan MacKinnon is clearly one of the best players in the NHL with 24 goals and 73 points this, but on a team by himself, does he take them to the playoffs? J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson, both in Vancouver, negate each other’s success when it comes to the Hart conversation.
If I had to give my three votes for the Hart right now at 3:30 on January 19th, it would go: Connor McDavid, Connor Hellebuyck, and then Nikita Kucherov.
Who are your three picks for the Hart this season?
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