How Hellebuyck is taking flight at just the right time for Jets
Connor Hellebuyck is flying high.
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The win over Chicago propelled the Jets to second place in the Central Division - four points back of the Blackhawks - and the shutout helped raise the team's goal differential from even to plus-four.
In the bigger picture, Hellebuyck has now posted a record of 7-4-0 on the season and appears to be putting some distance between himself and Michael Hutchinson in the battle for the starting job in Winnipeg.
There's two factors helping Hellebuyck's cause as of late.
Forward potential realized
For starters, Hellebuyck is but one of a plethora of promising young players on the roster stepping up amid a bevy of injuries to the club's veteran core.
In the win over the Blackhawks, for example, super-rookie Patrik Laine recorded his league-leading 12th goal of the season while forward Nic Petan scored his first goal of the season, with more sure to come.
Stability on defense
On top of that, the return of Jacob Trouba has been a boon for the Jets' defense. When Tyler Myers returns from a day-to-day injury - and with Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom also patrolling the blue line - Hellebuyck should only continue to find his groove in the crease.
2013 first-round pick Josh Morrissey scored his first career goal in the win over Chicago, and he's also quickly becoming a key piece of the team's defensive corps.
In other words, the decision to send Ondrej Pavelec to the AHL prior to the start of the season appears to have been a portend: the Jets are trending younger, faster, and ultimately up. As such, look for Hellebuyck to be the goalie of record more often than not as the season progresses.