The Winnipeg Jets goaltender won his first Vezina Trophy on Monday, taking the NHL’s top goalie honor ahead of Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins.
The award was voted on by 30 of the 31 NHL general managers and Hellebuyck racked up 19 first-place votes, nine second-place votes, and one third-place vote for a total of 123 points, 24 more than Rask (10 -15 -4).
Hellebuyck received the Great Grant Fuhr Award from the Edmonton Oilers, a Hockey Hall of Fame member who won the Vezina Trophy in 1988.
“It’s very rewarding. Almost a little sigh of relief because I was so close last time around, ”Hellebucyk said on a zoom call with reporters. “I wanted it so badly. This year has been such a mental grind, but also so much fun. I wish the playoffs went a little better, but when I look back on this year, I’m going to say we did some great things.
Hellebuyck first made a public statement about his intention to be the NHL’s top goaltender in 2017 in a scrum that raised more than a few eyebrows.
To give a bit of context, Hellebuyck had just given up five goals and been pulled from the start, for the sixth time in the 2016-17 campaign, the night before and he was at his best – shedding some confidence at a time when others might be. tempted to run for cover or not bother to make himself available.
“My game is the best it has ever been and if I keep playing this way it’s going to be pretty good,” Hellebuyck said. “If I stick to this game, I’ll win a Stanley Cup and a Vézina one day.
The truth was, Hellebuyck had to play a lot better back then.
He knew it, the Jets coaches knew it and his teammates knew it.
All parties also knew that it was part of the process for a young goalkeeper who had his first real taste of being a No.1 guy for a team that was quite inexperienced.
The bumps in the road are natural and Hellebuyck did the job necessary to get through the tough times and he now finds himself among the top puck scorers in the NHL.
Now he has the material to back up his bold words.
Over the years, Hellebuyck’s desire to achieve both of these goals has grown exponentially.
Now that he has won a Vezina, Hellebuyck is not ready to rest on his laurels. He wants to continue to improve and eventually lead his team to the promised land.
“Well that’s great. I almost feel like I’m slipping a little monkey on my back after saying that, ”said Hellebuyck, who becomes the first Jets goalie in franchise history to win the Vezina. “Now I’m really looking forward to the next one and the next one is going to be great. It’s winning a Cup. It won’t be easy and it won’t be just me. There will be a whole team in front of me who will all have to join in, much like we have done this year, and fight and fight. We have the changing rooms for that, it will only get better and I’m really excited for this job.
It remains to be seen what the next stage of his development will look like for Hellebuyck, but he will continue to push for more.
“Right now we’re really going to analyze everything that’s happened this year, really trying to improve wherever I think I can save a few more pucks. This may be my new area, but these are going to go a long way. It will be about tightening up my game and making it even more complete, ”said Hellebuyck. “My whole game has kind of sculpted. I tightened up a lot. I think the most important and the most important part is my mind and my mental game. It has become much calmer. I only care about the things I need to worry about and focus on the things I need to focus on, and I have gained some experience under the belt.
“Each year you learn a little more about yourself and your game and you learn to handle the roller coaster. I was very lucky to have everyone around me at a very young age, so I was able to build this early in my career. And now that we are in a good position, we can only continue to grow. And I feel like the growth is exponential and that’s what’s very exciting going forward.
Turns out the 2016-17 roller coaster season for Hellebuyck was a big one.
“This first year, he scored 26 victories in the National Hockey League. It’s a successful season for a goaltender, ”Jets goaltending coach Wade Flaherty told reporters in July when Hellebuyck was nominated for the award. “He’s had its ups and downs and we’ve learned from them. As a goalkeeper, you won’t be able to go there every night and have that success. But you can learn from it and learn to build your consistency. It’s another thing Connor has. He is able to go out and be very consistent, but that also comes from his practice habits and his dynamism as an individual.
Hellebuyck, who was also named NHL First Team All-Star, believes in himself and that unwavering confidence is one of the reasons he has lived up to the Vézina in two of the past three. seasons.
Being mentally tough is important, as is finding a balance between blocking out noise and using some of the naysayers’ comments as fuel.
When playing at a high pressure position like a goal, having thick skin is a prerequisite.
“It’s definitely a bit thicker. He’s one of the biggest critics of himself and he feels like he wants to stop every goal, ”said Flaherty. “He’s a very, very competitive individual and a very, very competitive athlete.
Hellebuyck has been the backbone of the Jets this season, there’s no other way to describe him. During a campaign where the Jets overhauled the defense corps, Hellebuyck was incredibly busy.
It was also under siege for several nights.
Hellebuyck not only faced the most shots (1,796), but he also made the most saves (1,656).
He also faced the highest danger odds (412) five-on-five – as the natural stats turn shows – and made the most dangerous saves (347).
It’s an awesome combination.
Going further, Hellebuyck has faced 37 or more shots on 13 different occasions and appeared to thrive when busy, posting a 10-1-2 record with a 2.08 goals-against average and a d ‘stops of .949 in these cases. Games.
His busiest night came in San Jose on November 1, when Hellebuyck clocked a career-high 51 saves in a 3-2 win over the San Sharks – where he set the franchise record for saves in a period with 27 in the second.
While the numbers are impressive, they only tell part of the story.
In an era when more and more teams are leaving with more task sharing and moving away from a wide gap between starter and backup, Hellebuyck has been a workaholic.
At this point in his career, Hellebuyck would still love to play every game – even though he realizes that is neither possible nor optimal.
How busy was Hellebuyck?
Hellebuyck tied for the league lead and games played with Carey Price (58), who made two more starts than the Jets goaltender.
Hellebuyck still led the NHL with six shutouts and managed to finish second in the NHL in wins (31 vs. 35 for Vasilevskiy), while registering a goals-against average of 2.57 and a percentage of stops of, 922.
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As for Hellebuyck, the journey between the fifth-round pick of the 2012 NHL Draft and going from a marginal prospect to an elite starting goaltender at the top of his class has only just begun.
True to his habit, Hellebuyck didn’t look like a guy who wants to give up the Vezina Trophy now that he’s won it for the first time.
“There are a lot of good goalies in the NHL. I can’t really say that a guy is going to win because every year someone thrives and every year there’s a ton of guys who make good numbers and have really good years, ”said Hellebuyck. “What I can say is that I am not going to back down and look forward to fighting to resume the Vézina talks next year. And I will enjoy it while I have it.