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ST. LOUIS — Call it being stubborn. Defiant, even. Some might suggest downright delusional.
Whatever the case, Connor Hellebuyck’s inability to acknowledge a poor outing on his part has become one of his more unusual quirks.
And don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
“That’s his strength, right. You guys love that. What, we got beat once 5-2 by the Rangers the night after I yanked him and he said if he plays that way he’s going to win the Vezina and the Stanley Cup. I can’t use the word but that’s a great big… to everybody else. And I like that in a man. Stick to your guns, man,” coach Paul Maurice said prior to Sunday’s Game 3.
Hellebuyck was clearly not at his best in Game 2, a 4-3 loss for the Jets. That was evident to everyone, except maybe Hellebuyck himself. They had an 11-6 advantage in high-danger scoring chances over the Blues, yet came out on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
Following the game, Hellebuyck bristled at suggestions he had a rough outing, at one point suggestion questions about his play were “loaded.”
Maurice was asked if he liked how his No. 1 netminder handled things.
“Yes I do. That’s really a great strength of his, is that he gets a little burr in the saddle and he usually puts up an A game,” he said.
Mathieu Perreault missed nearly half of last year’s playoffs with injury. And so the veteran Winnipeg Jets forward was not a happy camper when he came up lame during the Game 2 morning skate with an upper-body ailment that kept him out of the lineup.
Fortunately, this one wasn’t nearly as serious and Perreault was a player for Game 3 Sunday.
“It got bad to a point where I couldn’t play. But we took care of it and then I felt good on the ice,” said Perreault, who admits to having a bit of “here we go again” thoughts in his head.
“Yeah, same thing. But this is different. It’s good now. Good to go.”
He said it was tough to watch from above as the Jets lost another tight game to fall behind 2-0 in the series.
“Watching from up there it’s different. It was a good game. Just came down to a bounce here and there. We had our chances, at 2-1 a couple great chances to put to 3-1. And they come down they score. That’s just how this game’s been going,” he said.
The Jets didn’t get any kind of secondary scoring during the first two games, while St. Louis got plenty. That’s been the difference in the early going. Perreault is hoping he can help change that. He skated on a new-look line Sunday with Kevin Hayes and Jack Roslovic.
“I want to have a mentality where everything I do on the ice is to make sure I’m on the right side of the puck. Do everything I can to keep it out of my own net. And then you give me a chance in the offensive zone, it’s on us to make the most of that chance. You maybe get one or two chances, then you’ve gotta make the most of it,” he said.
“I’m getting new linemates, it feels like, every other game throughout my entire career. So for me it’s nothing new. It actually gives me a little kick, a little boost, when I get new linemates. I don’t why. I like to experience new linemates, so anytime there’s a new combination for me it’ll be fun.”
The Manitoba Moose fell just short of completing an epic comeback tale, going from dead-last in the AHL around Christmas to only being eliminated from the playoffs on the second-last day of the season.
Maurice said their surge reminds him a bit of another team’s rise to excellence following a dreadful start.
“You know what, not far off, not quite as extreme as the St. Louis Blues,” he said.
“But when you got to Christmas time this year and we’d stolen all their players, they were in a real tough spot. Boy they went through a lot of guys this year. But what (coach Pascal Vincent) has done a brilliant job of is building a team of good men that just play hard. So they compete together. I was pulling for them, for the experience of the players and the organization, but I was also pulling for Pascal, because he and his staff have done just a fantastic job of rallying that group and getting them to stay in the fight.”
Vincent — a former assistant with the Jets — is likely to now join the staff for the remainder of their playoffs, just as he did last spring.
“It’s unfortunate it ended the way it did, but he’s a brilliant coach. His strength is, he has incredible personal skills. He can connect with players in a very principled way. He’s not a back rubber by any means, he’s a hard coach, but he connects with his players and gets the most out of them. He’s done a fantastic job,” said Maurice.
As for whether some Moose players are also on their way up, Maurice said those decisions will be made soon.
“You know what, that’s up to Chevy, how he wants to handle it,” he said.
One of the Jets most promising prospects captured a second straight national championship this weekend,
Dylan Samberg helped lead his University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs to a 3-0 victory over the University of Massachusetts on Saturday in Buffalo.
Samberg, 20, told the Free Press earlier this season he’d wait to decide on his future following the season. His options include returning to college for one more season or opting to turn pro and join the Jets organization this summer.
The 6’4, 215 pound left-shooting defenceman was chosen in the second round, 43rd overall, in the 2017 draft. He had seven goals and 12 assists in 39 games this season with UMD.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.