It’s hard to know if Connor Hellebuyck was motivated by anything other than backstopping his team to an important win on Broadway on Monday night.
But one can’t help to believe there wasn’t an undercurrent to his now critically-acclaimed performance against the New York Rangers, and more specifically, the head-to-head showdown with the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Igor Shesterkin.
Under the bright lights of perhaps the NHL’s biggest regular season stage known as Madison Square Garden, Hellebuyck was simply tremendous and his hockey thespian skills were on full display as he acted the leading role in the Jets’ second straight win over the Rangers this season.
It was if by script, Winnipeg’s eight-year veteran projected from 180 feet away to Shesterkin, “You may have the Vezina right now, but I’m coming to take it back, and the usurping has commenced.”
Hellebuyck turned aside 50 of 51 shots — the second-most of his career — controlled rebounds, used his glove hand with precision, and battled to the top of the crease all night.
The numbers, what do they mean?
They mean Connor Vezinabuyck is ridiculously good! 🔥
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) February 21, 2023
It was simply a Tony Award-worthy display and a curtain call acknowledgement that followed as the game’s first star.
And with one game remaining on this road trip for the Jets, Hellebuyck will take his act to a different venue Wednesday night for perhaps an encore performance against another potential Vezina nominee in Ilya Sorokin of the New York Islanders.
It’s here in another of New York’s boroughs — namely Queens — on Long Island, where the Jets and their fans hope Hellebuyck could upstage yet another New York goaltender for a second straight game.
If so, the name Connor Hellebuyck might shine from an off-Broadway marquee proclaiming his outstanding run in New York so far — by popular demand — and perhaps “held over” for one more night.
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