During the 2019-20 season, few goalies have had more opposite seasons than Connor Hellebuyck and Cory Schneider. But on Friday, both started, and both saw fantastic results.
When Nikolaj Ehlers scored a goal 32 seconds into the Winnipeg Jets’ game against the Vegas Golden Knights, there was no reason to believe that that was the only goal Winnipeg would need that night. But thanks to their stalwart goaltender, that would prove to be the case.
Hellebuyck is a favorite for the Vezina Trophy this season, and he’s put the Jets on his back more than once. Though his teammates provided plenty of offense in this 4-0 win, the goalie was still the star. He made all 29 saves on the night.
Even though the Golden Knights outperformed the Jets metrically, with 3.42 expected goals (xG) and 17 high danger chances (HDCF) to the Jets’ 2.34 and 14, Hellebuyck kept the door shut tight. The shutout was his sixth, which makes him the league leader on the season. Hellebuyck explained the significance of the accomplishment to the media after the game.
It’s a great milestone, but it’s a testament to the guys in front of me and how well we’ve been playing. When we bring it, we know we can really shut teams down, so, I thought tonight was a good team game… That felt like a typical Winnipeg game.Hellebuyck on his league-leading shutout
With the victory, the Jets moved into the first wild card spot in the Western Conference. The Golden Knights, for their part, sit atop the Pacific Division. The Jets will get the weekend off before facing the Arizona Coyotes on Monday.
Schneider Bouncing Back
The NHL season can be long and arduous for some players. After the New Jersey Devils coughed up a massive lead to Hellebuyck’s Jets in their first game, their goaltender seemed to be a broken man. It wasn’t long after that that the Devils waived Schneider and sent him to the American Hockey League (AHL). It was just November, but it seemed like his season, if not his NHL career, was over.
There was nothing for Schneider to do with the Binghamton Devils but work on his game and hope for an NHL return. And when the Devils traded Louis Domingue to the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline, that opportunity came.
Since returning full time, Schneider seems like a different goalie. He is 3-0-1, and his save percentage (SV%) hasn’t dipped below .900 in any game. His cumulative SV% during that stretch is .952, and he even posted a shutout against the Anaheim Ducks, his first since Feb. 21, 2019.
On Friday, Schneider’s hot streak continued. He made 31 saves on 33 shots against a St. Louis Blues team that entered the game on an eight-game winning streak. The Blues had eight HDCF and 2.29 xG on the evening, but Schneider was the better goalie, and his team got the win. Afterwards, the Devils goalie spoke to the media about how he’s feeling.
I feel pretty active in the crease, feel like I’m finding pucks pretty well, point shots, maybe ones I was not seeing earlier in the year or maybe not quite working hard enough to locate. Right now, I feel good about finding my windows and lanes and just getting eyes on the puck.Schneider’s post-game comments
Considering the Devils still owe Schneider an AAV of $6 million for the next two seasons, nothing could be better for the franchise than a resurgence. But considering his struggles, and his general popularity around the league, Schneider’s comeback is even better for the fans than for his franchise.
The Best Goalie Prospects
Goalie fanatics won’t want to miss this one. Our Greg Boysen recently ranked the top ten goaltending prospects approaching the NHL. The Florida Panthers drafted Spencer Knight 13th overall during the summer, but there are a few goalies who are already ahead of him on the list.
There are as many bright, young goaltenders approaching the NHL as ever, including the Nashville Predators’ Connor Ingram. The Predators got him for a song in the offseason, and now he is amongst the very best and brightest netminders coming down the pipe. Read about Ingram, Knight, and eight other greats in Boysen’s terrific article by clicking the thumbnail above.
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Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.