The Winnipeg Jets have kept Connor McDavid off the scoresheet in successive games, a feat only one other team all season accomplished. Paul Stastny scored the overtime winner as the Jets beat the Edmonton Oilers 1-0 in Game 2, executing their game plan perfectly to take a commanding 2-0 series lead back to Winnipeg.
Heading into the series as sizeable underdogs, the Jets knew they would need to smother Connor McDavid as a collective to suppress the prolific superstar. Two games into the series and the Jets are halfway there, thus far shattering all expectations by keeping the league’s most potent offensive threat completely off the scoresheet.
Jets Stifle McDavid by Committee in Game 2 Win
In the regular season, McDavid was kept off the scoresheet in consecutive games just once, a three-game dry patch against the Maple Leafs from Feb. 27 to March 3. The Jets have already managed that extraordinary feat, with McDavid unable to muster a single point in the series’ first two games.
After that infamous three-game barren spell he endured against the Leafs, McDavid splashed out for three points against Calgary, a word of warning for the Jets going into Game 3 on Sunday night. But complacency isn’t a word in the Jets’ current vocabulary, so rest assured they will do everything in their power to yet again suffocate the superstar’s time and space.
Keeping McDavid to the outside, negating his space in the neutral zone and employing a mob mentality when he enters the offensive zone has allowed the Jets to do what few people thought possible.
The Jets are containing McDavid so expertly that his best chance of breaking free from Winnipeg’s shackles is on the power play. To perpetuate their success against McDavid, it’s imperative Winnipeg continues to stay out of the sin bin. They’ve only been penalized four times in the first two games — two of which in short succession during last night’s third period — and were lucky not to concede on the Oilers’ brief five-on-three. Suffice to say, discipline is a key factor when playing against the league’s best power-play unit.
Connor Hellebuyck Main Factor in Keeping McDavid Off Scoresheet
Hellebuyck has saved 58 successive shots, 38 of which coming in last night’s shutout victory. He hasn’t allowed a goal since Jesse Puljujarvi scored at the 8:24 mark of the second period in Game 1. Exuding calmness, composure and an unassumingly quiet confidence, Hellebuyck is the main reason his team has found a way to keep McDavid so eerily quiet.
If he sees the puck, you can almost guarantee he’ll stop it. His rebound control is impeccable and so too is his lateral movement. Positionally sound, the just-turned 28-year-old is also playing his angles perfectly, showing precisely the right amount of aggressiveness.
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The onus was on last season’s Vezina Trophy winner, after an uncustomary subpar season series against the Oilers, to rise to the occasion. Headlined by an otherworldly .986 save percentage, albeit, from a relatively small two-game sample size, Hellebuyck has certainly risen to the formidable task, reinforcing why, when he’s on his game, he is one of the world’s best.
Invaluable Contributions From Unheralded Sources
Derek Forbort’s incredibly active stick and ability to lay his body on the line by blocking countless McDavid shots is but one example of the Jets’ proficient defense-by-committee approach.
Dylan DeMelo also got in on the act, making an acrobatic, last-gasp glove save on a McDavid goal-bound shot that even Hellebuyck would have been proud of. Those unheralded moments at pivotal junctures of games are often the difference between winning and losing during the playoffs. Margins in the playoffs are thinner than an 80-year-old’s hairline, making the aforementioned contributions all the more invaluable.
Everyone expects McDavid to notch his first point of the series in Game 3, but after two defensive masterclasses by the Jets’ collective, keeping the league’s most potent offensive threat off the scoresheet for a third successive game isn’t as farfetched an idea as it was just a few days ago.
A freelance sports writer and content strategist, Gary trains rigorously to avoid carpal tunnel, writing about hockey, footy and all things Jets and Tottenham. He’s freelanced for The Calgary Herald, FanSided, Sports Illustrated, The Canadian Press, among others.