FRIESEN: Urgency ramping up for Jets

FRIESEN: Urgency ramping up for Jets

It took 59 minutes and 56 seconds for the San Jose Sharks to get the winning goal past Connor Hellebuyck on Tuesday night.

It took barely five minutes into Wednesday’s practice for the Winnipeg Jets goalie to lose his temper.

Showing there was still plenty of frustration left over from the late-game collapse and five goals scored by the Sharks, Hellebuyck reacted to a couple of practice goals by swinging his stick like an axe at the crossbar and smashing it in two.

“I don’t like getting scored on. Period,” Hellebuyck said. “And I don’t like losing games. So let out a little anger, show a little emotion, show that I care.”

It wasn’t vintage Hellebuyck on Tuesday, as he fought pucks instead of absorbing them like he does when he’s on his game.

The late goal was just the icing on a half-baked cake.

“It was a kick in the nuts losing with a few seconds left,” he said. “It’s hard to swallow. It’s one of those games where you have to bottle it up and throw it away. Because it’s not going to happen very often. You don’t want that to linger.”

There are other things the Jets, losers of two straight and three of four, don’t want lingering from Tuesday.

Topping the list are high-risk turnovers like the one by Nik Ehlers that sprung the Sharks for that ill-fated rush in the dying seconds.

But where Hellebuyck claimed to still like his game – “It’s in a really good spot. I’ve been peaking at the right time” – Ehlers didn’t mince words about how little he liked his.

“It’s no secret. Our line, we weren’t happy with our game,” Ehlers said. “As a team we worked hard to get back into the game. Obviously, a dumb mistake at the end.
“It’s a stupid play. You’ve got eight seconds left, try and force that through that hasn’t been going through all game? Yeah, get that puck to the net, get a rebound, maybe you get it in. That’s a much better option, obviously.”

Live and learn, as they say.

The trouble is the Jets are nearing the end of the regular season and are still having trouble learning when to try the pretty play and when to stick to basics.

“Certain kinds of turnovers are so difficult to defend,” coach Paul Maurice said. “Where we’re good is with offensive zone puck possession and then transition off mistakes that other teams make.”

The problem is they’re pretty good at making nice plays, too.

What they have to do is be more discerning about which ones are high-reward without the high risk.

“I’ll tell you what, they remember that (pretty) play because they see it on TV for four straight days,” Maurice said. “But the opportunity for that event just doesn’t present itself very often this time of year. I like the confidence and I like the courage it takes to make that play, but time and place. Make the right play.”

Drilling that concept into his charges remains Job 1 before the playoffs come around.

“It’s just slowly moving your team to get really comfortable with the kind of hockey that’s played at this time of year,” Maurice said.

I’m not sure Maurice was planning on going about it quite this slowly.

That Ehlers owned his blunder is probably a good sign.

“He’s just smart,” the coach said. “Get out in front of the bus before it runs you over.”

The San Jose bus certainly ran over Ehlers and his linemates. He and Kyle Connor were minus-4, while centre Kevin Hayes escaped with a minus-3 tag.

“We weren’t great,” Hayes deadpanned. “You can’t help the team when you’re minus-3. That’s why we play a lot of games, though. We get right back at it.”

Maurice didn’t say if he’d give Hellebuyck a chance to get right back at it, but the Jets No. 1 goalie has been good at rebounding from rough outings this season.

Even if he has had a few too many of them.

“On the season as a whole… I like where my game’s at,” he said. “I mean, if we win a Stanley Cup, are we going to talk about this right now? I don’t think so.”

Nope, we won’t.

But if the Jets keep slipping, give up top spot in the division and splinter in the playoffs, we just might look back at the point or two that got away in March and the stick smashed in two as a sign of things to come.

pfriesen@postmedia.com

Twitter: @friesensunmedia

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