© Chuck Duboff
I’m not big into analytics, but, every metric says that the Jets have had the better of the play for the last two games. Possession, zone time, shots…all Jets; yet, we wake up this morning to the Jets being on the brink of elimination…down 3-1 in the Western Conference Championship Series.
I don’t need fancy numbers and mathematical charts to tell me what my eyes can plainly see. Marc Andre Fleury has given the Vegas Golden Knights championship goaltending, while Conner Hellebucyk has struggled to give the Winnipeg Jets the goaltending which carried them throughout the regular season and first two rounds of playoffs.
Fleury has given a performance for the ages; and in fact I find it difficult not to be impressed with how spectacular he has played, most especially in the last two games. In the last period of game 3, with the Jets down 3-2, Fleury made two saves off of Mark Scheifele that were truly unbelievable. Scheif puts that in the back of the net 9 times out of 10, but after making an initial incredible save, Fleury dove to block the rebound shot from 55. You don’t win Stanley Cups without goaltending like that; check out the saves:
Meanwhile, down at the other end of the ice, sloppy play and weak goals have characterized the play of Conner Hellebucyk. Let’s be clear, he has been the main reason for the Jets great season, but, in crunch time, he has been less than stellar. Mishandling the puck behind the net, soft goals between his pads and a winning goal on Friday night that should have been a routine save.
Hellebucyk comes across as a very confident, I dare say, cocky, young man; he believes in his skills and ability to stop the puck; at times he seems in disbelief that he let a goal in. Well, this afternoon, Conner Hellebucyk needs to play at his absolute best. Focused, cocky, and in that zone where it looks like he is playing effortless goaltending. Anything less than that and the less talented, but hard working, Vegas Golden Knights will move on to the Stanley Cup finals.
What will it take for the Jets to beat Marc Andre Fleury? Relentless pressure, forechecking, havoc in front of the net and shooters who normally score, getting the puck past Fleury and bending the twines.
Forget about all the Game 5 cliches and analytics; it’s quite simple. The team that gets the outstanding goaltending this afternoon will determine if there is a Game 6 on Tuesday night.