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Hellebuyck ready to shine in playoffs

"At this time of year, it's all about confidence." -Hellebuyck

by Jamie Thomas @JamieThomasTV / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - For the last couple of months the Winnipeg Jets have been trying to find their game.

Fortunately, the last line of defence was sharpening his and is ready for the huge challenge ahead. 

Yes, Connor Hellebuyck is in the zone at the right time of year.

"I think Bucky (Hellebuyck) approaches the game with a very calm demeanor," said Tyler Myers.

"He stays very even keeled which I think has given him a lot of success the last two years. The way he played down the stretch especially this year has been exactly what you expect of him. He's such a good goalie and our job is to give as much help as we can."

Expectations were high after Hellebuyck signed his six-year contract extension in the off-season following a Vezina Trophy finalist performance. A perfect example of his stellar play came on New Year's Eve in Edmonton when Hellebuyck robbed Leon Draisaitl late in the third to preserve a 3-2 victory. 

After the game Blake Wheeler was asked about the clutch stop and his answer said it all.

"It's a game saver," said Wheeler.

"I don't want to say we expect that out of him but the way he's performed and kind of the realm he's put himself in those are the saves ultimately we need if we are going to get to where we want to go."

It was one of many memorable stops by Hellebuyck this season.

Video: PHI@WPG: Hellebuyck makes trio of stellar saves

Hellebuyck reacted in obvious fashion when he was reminded of that Wheeler comment in December, as it was a way of saying that he has his teammates trust.

"It shows I've earned their respect. You don't ever want to be the guy that they don't expect to do anything huge," said Hellebuyck.

"You want to be that guy who is showing their worth, showing what you can do and now they know what to expect out of you and now they can make their game better."

For quite some time now the Michigan product has been clear about wanting to peak at the right time. 

"It means not feeling too confident about my game until the right moment. Always trying to improve and getting my details right," said Hellebuyck. 

"At this time of year it's all about confidence. When I say peak I mean I've got my mind right. I'm prepared for a battle; I like where my details are at and I'm just going to continue to force my game on other teams."

Since March 1st Hellebuyck's save percentage is .922 and his goals against average - an impressive 2.62 to go along with two shutouts.

"What he was, was good at the start of the year. He wasn't at his expectation level but he wasn't off," said Paul Maurice.

"He won hockey games and by the end of January I think we were 33-16-2, he's played well. But he's been exceptional the last two and a half months I think he's right on his game."

Hellebuyck was the busiest of all NHL goaltenders in 2018-19 leading the way in shots faced (2051) and saves (1871). Now, with everything starting fresh in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's his time and according to his coach, he's made for these moments.

"He loves this time of year, he's excited about it. He's a guy who plays at a high emotional level and critiques his game but he plays 60 minutes every night and you need more right?" said Maurice.

"You need something to drive you and he's wired for it."

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