Heading into the 2017-18 National Hockey League season, the Winnipeg Jets were expected to have Steve Mason as their starting goaltender. Mason signed a two year contract worth $8.2 million, and Jets management were hoping that the Oakville native would return to his stellar play that the Columbus Blue Jackets saw during Mason’s rookie season. In 2008-09, Mason made headlines when he recorded 10 shutouts to lead the NHL. At the time, Mason was also getting Vezina Trophy consideration, and barely lost to Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins.
Over the last decade with the Blue Jackets and Flyers, Mason’s statistics have been OK, but nothing to be jumping up and down about. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but has not regained his form from his dazzling rookie season. When the Jets lost on opening night 7-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs with Mason in net, there was a concern by many that goaltending would once again be the problem in Winnipeg this year.
However, it has not. Since Canadian Thanksgiving, this has been Connor Hellebuyck’s team and the third year Jets netminder has not disappointed. In 15 games, Hellebuyck has a record of 11-1-2 and has been the clear number one man in between the Jets pipes.
Hellebuyck has not recorded a shutout this season, but has been very consistent. He has given up two goals or less in 11 games, with his only bad appearance coming against the Vegas Golden Knights in a 5-2 Jets loss on November 10.
Hellebuyck is a restricted free agent after this season and it would be nuts for Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff not to have Hellebuyck in the Jets long term plans. Winnipeg is playing extremely well at the moment. They are currently at 12-4-3 and in second place in the Central Division.
However, Hellebuyck is not the only goaltender on a Canadian team who is red hot at the moment. Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs was a perfect 2-0 this past week with two shutouts. He blanked the New Jersey Devils with 42 saves in a 1-0 overtime win on Thursday and then had 33 saves in a 6-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. I know Teuvo Teravainen of the Carolina Hurricanes had a great week (five goals and five assists for 10 points in four games), however Andersen was perfect as he made 75 saves on 75 shots. There is no doubt that Andersen deserved to be the first star and not the second star from November 13-19.