The Winnipeg Jets went out this summer to make a move that would solidify their goaltending, signing free agent Steve Mason.
One of Winnipeg’s most pressing concerns over the years has been goaltending. So far this season, the potential solution to that issue has come from within the organization.
Mason, on a two-year deal worth a total of $8.2 million, began the season as the starting goalie in the opener but struggled right away, which has opened up the opportunity to Connor Hellebuyck. And so far he has made the most of it, with only one loss in eight games and the Jets still earned a single point in that defeat.
He has six wins so far, posting an early save percentage of .940. Head coach Paul Maurice told reporters today that Hellebuyck will get the start Thursday against the Dallas Stars, acknowledging that his 24-year-old netminder is “going well right now.”
On three occasions over his last five starts, Hellebuyck has held the opposition to just a single goal, including last night’s 28-save performance — and 2-1 Jets win — against the Minnesota Wild.
“I think the big games bring out the best in him and he’s playing with a lot of confidence right now,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler, per CBC. “We’re trying to do a good job in front of him, letting him see pucks, and he’s making some big saves so that keeps you in games.”
Mason’s most recent start was last Friday. It was a promising one for the Jets, as he stopped 35 of 37 shots faced, although Winnipeg lost to Columbus in overtime.
The Jets, second in the Central Division with a 6-3-2 record, host the Stars on Thursday and the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, before setting off on a three-game road trip that includes games against Dallas, Vegas and Arizona. They’ll play the Golden Knights and Coyotes in a back-to-back situation next Friday and Saturday, which could give Mason an opportunity to get back in the net for at least one of those games.
But for now, Hellebuyck has provided the Jets with the type of performances you’d expect from a No. 1 goalie, which bodes well for a team that certainly isn’t lacking in top-end talent in other parts of its lineup.
Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.