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Things falling into place for Jets

Wheeler, Hellebuyck at forefront of Winnipeg's resurgence

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- Many little things have fallen into place for the Winnipeg Jets, but it's belief more than anything that has helped them to a 15-6-3 start.

A 7-2 win against the Minnesota Wild at Bell MTS Place on Monday gave Winnipeg 15 victories in its first 24 games, the most in that span in the history of the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise.

The Jets scored seven unanswered goals Monday after falling behind 2-0 in the first 13:54.


[RELATED: Jets score seven unanswered goals in win against Wild | Five Questions with Dale Hawerchuk]


"You don't have to do a lot of reinforcing on the bench," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "They know. (It's) really good leadership in the room. A little bit of success now, so they've kind of gotten to the point where they know how to handle it when things aren't going your way and now you don't even have to say anything."

Winnipeg has won seven of its past nine games and with 33 points, trails the St. Louis Blues by two points for first place in the Central Division and NHL standings.

"We're doing a really good job as a group of focusing on the little things," defenseman Tyler Myers said. "There are times when we look like we're about to open the game up, which we don't want to do, and we're doing a really good job of catching it and getting back to what's making us successful.

"We have the guys and the skill in the room to know when we can make those plays. We're doing a good job of picking the right times to make them."

Video: MIN@WPG: Wheeler nets goal off redirected pass

Improved structure has helped the Jets improve defensively this season. With 64 goals allowed, they are seventh-best in the NHL in that category.

Better discipline has also contributed; the Jets have been shorthanded 84 times this season, tied for ninth-most. But including one time shorthanded against the Wild, they have had seven games already with two or fewer shorthanded situations to kill.

Over the previous three seasons combined, Winnipeg was shorthanded 865 times, most in the League.

"That's a combination of things," Myers said. "One is buying into using our feet more than our stick. When we get reaching, that's when we get into penalty trouble. Another part of it is being on the right side of the puck. That's part of the little things I was talking about. On the right side of the puck, we're in the right position to be hard on guys in the right way.

"And that gives us more opportunity to do what we want to do offensively."

Video: MIN@WPG: Hellebuyck denies wrist shot from Granlund

Winnipeg's offensive leaders had been quiet recently; captain Blake Wheeler and center Mark Scheifele, who share the Jets lead in scoring with 28 points each, had gone four and three games respectively without a point before breaking out against the Wild.

Each had three points (one goal, two assists) Monday.

"Even when we're not scoring, it's about winning hockey games," Wheeler said. "You want to find a way to contribute to wins. That's all that matters. We've been a part of a lot of losses where we've contributed, and that's an empty feeling. Even on the road, the two games in L.A. and Anaheim (wins last Wednesday and Friday), we didn't have anything, but it felt just as a good as it does tonight.

"So much goes into a hockey game other than scoring points. We've tried to keep our game the same. The bottom line is winning, and that's not going to change."

Then there's the goaltending.

Video: MIN@WPG: Hellebuyck turns aside Winnik's wrist shot

Many observers felt it was the element that was holding back the young Jets when they missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past two seasons.

Connor Hellebuyck, 24, didn't have a lot to do Monday (17 saves), but he did his part after the Wild jumped to their 2-0 lead.

"We've been in that situation this year, and you could tell our team's playing good; we were buzzing," said Hellebuyck, who is 13-2-2 with a 2.31 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. "I wasn't worried. I was just trying to keep my composure and give the team the chance to get a little momentum going, and that's exactly what we did."

Hellebuyck said the Jets' stressful first week, losing 7-2 against the Toronto Maple Leafs and 6-3 against the Calgary Flames in their first two games, was the catalyst. Winnipeg has not had consecutive regulation losses since.

"I think it's the way we answered," Hellebuyck said. "We built confidence from that. We know what we're capable of now. It took a couple of games to realize we have the potential to make playoffs, and going through that little adversity at the start helped us realize we can go through anything and come back from it."

Video: MIN@WPG: Scheifele cranks home Wheeler's dish for PPG

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