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Heads held high as series shifts to St. Louis

Maurice on Hellebuyck: ""I think he's going to be great tomorrow".

by Daren Millard @darenmillard /

WINNIPEG - The regular season should have been enough of a heads up to suggest the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs would be different than last spring's run for the Winnipeg Jets.  

A team that put a city on its shoulders and together was swept into the conference final by a wave of innocence created a bandwagon that violated every load limit.

Now, after dropping both home games to start, that axel bending load now offers room for the hardcores to stretch out. 

Yes, the whiteout has been its brilliant self, keeping pace with the weather hardened supporters at the street parties, but to be able to have any chance of advancing, this years group may have to focus inward instead of enjoying the surrounding environment

Blake Wheeler joined Connor Hellebuyck in offering intense reaction to the Game 2 defeat. The goaltender in particular stood firm in rejecting any suggestion of a wobbly performance.  

"I really don't like that question." was Hellebuyck's reaction to a scribe asking if it was fair that the netminder had to get some of those, referring to three wrist shots that beat him Friday night.

Hellebuyck followed up by saying "I'm going to remain positive here. It's only two-zero, there's a lot of hockey to be played."

Winnipeg isn't alone in going on the road down a pair. Lightning coach Jon Cooper described his clubs predicament heading to Columbus as a five alarm fire. The bolts equalled the NHL record for most wins in a single season with 62 and won't have the NHL's top scorer in the lineup for Game 3 after Nikita Kucherov was suspended for a dangerous hit in Game 2.

When asked about Winnipeg's predicament by using Cooper's narrative, Paul Maurice said "Three, (alarm) one goal games" summing up the margin of defeat to open the series.

Nobody can argue how close the two individual games have been. The Jets had the lead in the third period of game one and were tied in Game two's final frame, yet St. Louis has a two game edge in a series that has yet to feature a multi-goal advantage.   

Maurice liked the Jets second outing a bit more than the opener. His star players scored big goals in a performance that should have been good enough to even the series, and that brings us back to the number one goalie.

"I think he's going to be great tomorrow (Game 3) I truly do, that's his career." said Maurice of Hellebuyck. 

"If he had an off night he got a little snarly, I expect him to be at his best tomorrow."

No doubt's from the head coach. As for the man under the most scrutiny. If this is a challenge, Hellebuyck is accepting.

"I just need to continue battling, keep fighting, and show everyone that I'm going to be the rock behind them."

Perfect choice of words as the Jets are a stone's throw from being right back in the series.

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