In the midst of one of the unnerving and unpredictable times in recent history, the National Hockey League carried on with five games on Wednesday night. While we await the official word on what may happen with the remainder of the 2019-20 season, we’ll look back at a hot goaltender in Winnipeg and a response to a testy situation in Toronto.
Hellebuyck Red-Hot at the Right Time
The Winnipeg Jets are on a roll of late and they have their All-Star goaltender to thank for it. The Jets flew into Edmonton and took down the Oilers, 4-2, for their fourth straight win and now have a two-point lead for the first Western Conference wild card.
Connor Hellebuyck made 36 saves to continue his recent hot streak. He was able to shake off the mishandling of a puck behind the net that led to the Oilers’ first goal to come up big for his team.
The game headed into the third period tied 2-2 and the Oilers had a 12-3 shot advantage over the final 20 minutes. Hellebuyck stopped all 12 of those shots and the Jets scored twice to bring home the victory.
“It was a weird game. We had some pretty awesome efforts at our goal line to keep pucks out,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler, who had a goal and an assist. “Our goalie was really good again, and I think we just kind of stayed with it and allowed the game to evolve and we were able to get some opportunities that we were able to capitalize on.”
In his last six starts, Hellebuyck is 5-1-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average (GAA), a .957 save percentage (SV%) and two shutouts.
Andersen, Keefe Ok With Leafs’ Response
Tuesday’s big game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning had some pretty testy moments, especially in the crease of goaltender Frederik Andersen.
After Blake Coleman was called for goaltender interference early in the game, Alex Killorn’s play midway through the third period went unpunished. While Andersen secured a loose puck underneath him, Killorn crashed the net and made no effort to stop and jumped on top of the exposed goaltender.
Nobody in a Maple Leafs sweater, including Andersen himself, did anything in retaliation, which caused many hot takes on social media about the team not protecting their goaltender. However, they might have been the correct move with the Maple Leafs protecting a 2-1 lead.
“It’s all situational,” Andersen said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “I didn’t really see it happening. I was trying to battle for the puck, like, no real damage was happening so I think it would’ve been undisciplined to go after him and maybe take a two-minute penalty for something that didn’t really matter. That could hurt us even more.”
Head coach Sheldon Keefe had no problem with no major reaction from his team in this particular incident.
“You want someone to acknowledge it and speak up that it’s not acceptable but, at the same time, I really believe strongly that you can’t overreact to situations like that,” he said. “We want to be standing up for each other. We’re a family and all that kind of stuff, but it’s very important, especially this time of year, that we remain composed.”
The Maple Leafs held on to beat the Lightning 2-1.
Andersen’s Attitude Leads to Success
Speaking of Andersen, his former goalie coach with the Anaheim Ducks, Sudarshan Maharaj, was a guest on this week’s 31 Thoughts: The Podcast. He shared a story with hosts Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek about when Andersen was demoted to the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League early in his career.
“Freddie will kill me for telling this story,” he said. “(He) didn’t really want to be there, wasn’t working very hard and left the ice early after practice…. As you can tell, I’m a pretty laid-back guy — the Caribbean in me comes out pretty good. I called him out into the hallway; I used a few words that I won’t use now and described where I thought he was at that moment, really laid into him. That night, we were having a meeting. Freddie came in and he stood beside me. At the end of the meeting, he said to me, ‘Got a haircut.’ I thought, ‘OK, yeah.’ And he said, ‘I thought I’d change my look to go with my attitude.’ And he walked away. It was a complete 180. Never had to address that point again with Freddie Andersen.”
Andersen’s work ethic has been a huge factor in his success and his ability to be a workhorse in Toronto.
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Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.