Winnipeg Jets fans must be feeling pretty blessed these days. Not only has the team’s biggest question mark, starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec, been excellent to start the season (.928 SV%), the backup, Michael Hutchinson, has been even better (.949), albeit in limited appearances.
Hutchinson made his third start last night in Carolina, stopping 22 of 23 Hurricanes shots in a 3-1 win. With another two points, the Jets (9-6-2) moved past Chicago into third place in the Central Division.
“Early especially, we did a nice job of letting him see it,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said, per NHL.com. “None of the rebounds really got away from him, and we were able to clear anything he didn’t get to. But he was really solid and composed.”
Winnipeg’s team save percentage now stands at .929, good for fourth in the NHL. It finished .907 last season, better than only six teams. And the percentages were even lower the two previous seasons (.901 and .902, respectively). Winnipeg missed the playoffs in all three of those seasons.
Based on what ‘Canes coach Bill Peters said after last night’s game, there’s reason to believe the Jets’ skaters are having a positive impact on their netminders’ numbers.
“They don’t give up much,” he said. “You watch the tape on the goaltender they played tonight, he’s coming off a 0-0 game in Chicago that went into a shootout, so we knew it was going to be a low-scoring game, but we have to find a way to generate more quality scoring chances.”
In fact, Hutchinson called last night “a pretty easy night.”
Still, the easy saves are just as important as the tough ones. And right now, the only thing that matters is that the Jets, with the NHL’s third-best GAA (2.00), are giving up far fewer goals than they’ve given up in the past.