The Winnipeg Jets posted a 9-7-1 record in March and currently sit second in the North Division, three points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and one point ahead of the Edmonton Oilers.
While many players chipped in throughout the month, three in particular stood out as their club played a head-spinning 17 games in just 31 days.
3: Connor Hellebuyck
After getting decent Hellebuyck in January and February, the Jets got close to Vezina-calibre Hellebuyck in March.
In 14 starts, Hellebuyck posted an 8-6-2 record with one shutout. He reduced his Goals Against Average to 2.59 and increased his Save Percentage to .914.
Hellebuyck was especially outstanding in his two starts in the early-March three-game series against the Maple Leafs. He stole the game for his side on March 9, making 36 saves — many of the ten-bell variety — in a 4-3 win.
He followed up that performance with a 34-save showing two nights later. Although the Jets lost that contest in overtime and he allowed four goals, much of the post-game conversation by pundits was still focused on how good Hellebuyck was.
Hellebuyck was also really feeling it in the two-game set versus the Canucks on March 22 and 24. He posted his first shutout of the season in the first game and allowed only one goal on 39 shots in the second, and that goal came with 1:35 to go and his team up 5-0.
After a 29-save performance in a 5-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on March 29, Hellebuyck described his mindset between the pipes.
“If one beats me, it doesn’t change my game plan,” Hellebuyck said of the game where he allowed a goal 2:24 in. “I want to show that I’m a rock back there and anytime that I get beat, I’m going to force them to make the perfect shot, or at least try to, and I’m going to show my team that I’m not fazed.”Connor Hellebuyck on his mindset in net
Hellebuyck is well-documented as a workhorse who wants the crease every night. The Jets have 15 games in April, and it’s not inconceivable he starts 13 of them: he will probably get April 15 off as it’s the second half of a back-to-back and get one other game off somewhere toward the end of the month if the Jets continue to be in a good position in the North Division standings.
2: Kyle Connor
Kyle Connor was a consistent threat throughout March. Not only did he fire home seven goals — pushing his total up to 17 for the season — but he showcased his speed and creativity as he racked up 10 assists as well.
Five of his 17 games were multi-point efforts and he He sits second on the team in points.
Simply put, Connor is an extremely productive player. His xG% is well above 50 per cent and when he’s on the ice, his team converts more than half of their high-danger chances. That’s thanks in part to his excellent shot and ability to score from many different places on the ice but also thanks in part to his ability to set up teammates for prime chances, like he did here.
Connor’s month was memorable from beginning to end, from his three-point performance against the Vancouver Canucks on March 2, to his back-to-back two goal games on March 15 and March 17 against the Montreal Canadiens, to his two helper-night on a high-octane new-look line with Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers against the Flames.
Connor is currently riding a four-game point streak. Expect plenty more from him in April.
1: Andrew Copp
Andrew Copp started the month off quietly with four straight games without a point. Since then, however, he’s made a lot of noise, notching 12 points in his final 13 games (seven goals, five assists.) His shooting percentage was a ridiculous 29.2.
Copp’s finest performance was on March 24, when he became the first player in the NHL this season to score four goals in a game. Two of his goals came at even strength, while the other two came on the power play where he’s been logging time on the second unit.
HIs offensive explosion not only made the Jets happy, but also Winnipegger Marcela Chartrand who won $100,000 in the Save-On-Foods Million Dollar Score and Win challenge.
If Copp would have scored one more, Chartrand would have won $1 million like Winnipeg pastor Chris Haley did when Patrik Laine scored a handful against the St. Louis Blues in November, 2018.
Playing on an effective third line with Adam Lowry and Mason Appleton, Copp has become another scoring threat for opponents to worry about. He has already tied his career-high in goals with 11 and — despite the season being only 56 games long — is one point shy of tying his career-best point total of 29 (set in 2017-18.)
Copp has managed to build on his offensive game without sacrificing the defensive responsibilities he’s shouldered with such aplomb over seven-season career.
According to his head coach and teammates, he prepares the right way and has worked hard to become the multi-faceted player now on display in the final year of his contract.
“He spends an awful lot of his time trying to develop that part of his game,” Paul Maurice said after Copp’s four-goal feat. “I think his talent and his gift is the defensive part of the game, and that comes naturally to him. He’s spent an awful lot of time developing his hands, picking pucks along the boards. Just worked at it and worked at it.”
Rookie defenseman Logan Stanley added: “He’s a great pro and a great guy for someone like me to look up to and watch how he comes to the rink and prepares himself every day. It doesn’t matter what day or what game of the year, he’s preparing the way everyone should and just a great guy off the ice. He’s been really good to me as a rookie this year and helped me out a lot. I’m so happy for him.” (From ‘Copp’s hard work pays off,’ Winnipeg Free Press, March 25, 2021.)
Jets Setting Sights on Postseason Home-Ice Advantage
At 22-13-2 and second in the North Division, the Jets are looking good for a playoff spot barring a huge collapse. They’re setting their sights on getting home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs beginning mid-May.
“If we can continue to win series, that’s going to put us on top, and I think that’s our goal,” Hellebuyck said on March 29.
The Jets are in the home stretch now. We’ll see what April brings and who — if anyone — will rise to the occasion to help achieve that goal.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.