ANALYSIS: Three candidates for Jets MVP emerge one-third into season

The Winnipeg Jets reached what is essentially the one-third mark of their schedule following Sunday night’s 5-2 loss to Washington.

It marked a disappointing end to Winnipeg’s season-high, four-game winning streak for sure. But in the big picture, three team MVP candidates have emerged from the current Central Division leaders.

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The obvious choices are Connor Hellebuyck and Josh Morrissey.

In 14 of 21 starts, Hellebuyck has allowed two goals against or fewer. In those games, the Jets have lost twice. One of them was the lone overtime defeat of the season thus far, back on Oct. 30 in Las Vegas.

It’s not like the Vezina frontrunner would be mistaken for the proverbial Maytag repairman — Hellebuyck has made 25 or more saves in all but four of those 21 appearances.

And he is among the NHL’s best in virtually every goaltending category.

Morrissey has been about as good a defenceman as there has been in the NHL to this point in the schedule — and at both ends of the ice.

His five goals and 26 assists rank him third among point producers at the blue line position. He plays a majority of his team-leading minutes matched up against the opponents’ most dangerous forwards.

So take your pick. Or consider as well the man behind the bench.

Rick Bowness has this team in the best shape it has been in for years at this juncture of the schedule. And he’s done it by making with very few changes to a lineup that played more dysfunctional than cohesive en route to missing the postseason last spring for the first time since 2017.

The Jets are one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. The same can be said for their penalty killing unit — which, by the way, finished a woeful 29th last season.

The attention to detail without the puck hasn’t come at an offensive cost, where Winnipeg is at the upper echelon of the middle third in the league on the powerplay, and in goals-for per game.

Basically, it’s an across-the-board improvement.

If the Jets are to stay in the first-place fight, Hellebuyck and Morrissey must maintain their level of excellence over these final 55 games.

But you can’t overlook the impact of having “good bones” as part of the process either.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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