The Winnipeg Jets finished the 4-0 sweep of the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. A shocking upset as most fans had this being a close series heading in, with some even choosing the Oilers in four or five. However, the Jets played their game and ended up on top. No one was better in a Winnipeg uniform though than the goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck. If the current Vezina defender plays like that going forward, the Jets may be near unstoppable.
Connor Hellebuyck Shines as Jets Beat Oilers
Connor Hellebuyck’s Series
Let’s start with Connor Hellebuyck and his praise before diving into what else went right and wrong for each side. It is not too often you can give up a total of seven goals over two games and still come out of it looking amazing. However, that is exactly what he did. Hellebuyck started the first two games allowing one and zero goals on 71 total shots. Also known as a 0.986 save percentage. From there, he dipped slightly but Monday’s triple-overtime game saw him make 37 stops and end the series with a .950 save percentage. It should be almost impossible to lose with that kind of goaltending.
What’s even more impressive is that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were getting their chances. Yes, Winnipeg did a much better job at keeping them away than the regular season, but without Hellebuyck, this still could have been a different story. If you need any more proof, Hellebuyck currently leads all of the round one goalies in Goals Saved Above Average.
Goaltending contiues to be the story of the playoffs. Hellebuyck, Vasilevskiy, and Fleury performing over 2x better than regular season… Jarry more than 2x worse https://t.co/mvRa2m9l95 pic.twitter.com/a7GO2e9NFy
— MoneyPuck.com (@MoneyPuckdotcom) May 25, 2021
On the other end, Mike Smith ended with a .912 save percentage and -1.2 goals saved above average. The series was not his fault at all, but he simply was not the better of the two goalies.
Jets Need to Tighten Up
The Jets will still want to tighten things up going forward. Yes, Hellebuyck is amazing and counting on a world-class goalie is always a good feeling. However, a .950 save percentage is unsustainable for literally any goaltender. Making it so you don’t need that to survive will be key for Winnipeg. Controlling the play at 5v5 is something that they need to focus on next round. It was never a true strength in the regular season, but this series they had 44.73% of the shot attempts and 41.24% of the xG at 5v5. Those numbers are just not going to get it done the deeper you head into playoffs. Sure, a game or two an elite goalie can absolutely steal, but tempt fate over and over and it won’t end up great.
The good news for Winnipeg is that Nikolaj Ehlers is back and he looks healthy once again. He was a force for them this season and they badly need him to be that again. One of their best play drivers, the 5v5 game is going to have to go through him for success. On top of that, Kyle Connor, Mark Schiefele, and Blake Wheeler all need to step up their 5v5 game too. The scoring talent is very clearly there for them, but they can’t be overwhelmed against top competition if Winnipeg wants to keep having success.
Another Disappointing Season for Edmonton
From the Oilers point of view, this might be the most disappointing end possible. Out before things really even got started. McDavid and Draisaitl are already taking heat online, which seems misguided. Yes, they were held pointless for two games but they responded with 11 points in the following two games, both of which ended in losses. If this team ever wants to head anywhere it can’t be a two-man show.
Especially when those two guys immediately have to play together as soon as the team can’t score. You’re cutting your depth off at the leg and it doesn’t make sense. The Oilers have money coming off the books over the next year or two and have some huge decisions to make. However, they better look at the forward depth and try to make some shroud moves there. Simply blaming your two best players and ignoring the issue is a good way to set your franchise back, not forward.
Overall, the Jets and Connor Hellebuyck get some much-needed rest. They should have a minimum of five days off with the possibility of 10+, depending on how long the other series goes. They can use this time to heal up and make sure Ehlers and Pierre-Luc Dubois both feel as close to 100% as possible.
For Edmonton, they need to look at where they went wrong and how to fix it. The steps to that are unclear at this point. One thing is clear, they will no longer have Wayne Gretzky as part of the team.