Hard-working Jets grind down Hawks for second straight shutout
The Jets have plenty to celebrate. (JONATHAN DANIEL/AFP)
CHICAGO – It was the kind of road trip that could define the Winnipeg Jets as a hockey team.
Hard-working. Defensively conscious. Getting great goaltending. A bit lucky.
“A lot of the things that we have to do, that kind of embraces who we are, went into getting a chance to win a game like that,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said after his team capped off one of its most successful road trips in their four seasons in Winnipeg with a 1-0 win over the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center Sunday night.
Playing for the second straight night after beating the New York Rangers 1-0 in a shootout Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, the Jets bent but never broke against the Blackhawks and improved their record on the road trip to 3-0-1. They now have points in five straight games and are 6-5-1 overall.
And on this night, they did it with their backup goaltender, making just his second start of the season after getting pulled in his first game after just 22 minutes against the Los Angeles Kings.
Michael Hutchinson made 33 saves to earn the shutout, a night after Ondrej Pavelec had 38 saves in a shutout over the Rangers.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Hutchinson said. “It was great to get your first win and having it be a shutout is even more exciting and for it to be here in Chicago … It’s definitely something I’m going to look back on and go over and cherish this moment.”
When Jets coach Paul Maurice arrived at training camp this year, he said he wanted this kind of team. One that skates the other team into the ground, plays physical, blocks shots, grinds for its wins. Yes, the Blackhawks were a couple of goalposts away from tying or winning this one, but the Jets deserve full marks for what they accomplished.
They allowed just one goal in the last three games of this road trip. That’s impressive no matter how you got the job done. They got workhorse efforts from their defencemen throughout the trip. Zach Bogosian, Toby Enstrom, Jacob Trouba, Mark Stuart, Grant Clitsome and Paul Postma deserve a lot of credit for the work they did, especially in the last two games.
“It’s huge, what they did,” Hutchinson said. “It really gets you excited as a goalie when you see players laying down in front of shots and blocking them for you. We had some really key ones, especially with the goalie pulled at the end of the third period.
“They did a great job. When there was a rebound or a shot that didn’t quite get through but was just laying there, we did a great job of clearing it out and tying up sticks. I don’t think I had too many second chance opportunities in the whole game.”
The Jets opened the scoring just 20 seconds into the first period on their second good chance of the young hockey game. Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little generated a two-on-one off the opening faceoff and Crawford had to make a shoulder save on the Jets captain. But the Jets stayed on the puck and Michael Frolik worked his way into a good position to shoot on the open net with Crawford sprawling in the crease.
The Hawks looked dangerous throughout the first and Hutchinson, making just his second start of the season, was tested often. His biggest challenge was from sniper Patrick Sharp on a breakaway. Sharp cut in from the left side, pulled the puck wide and slipped it past Hutchinson’s outstretched pad. However, it hit the post and stayed out.
Hutchinson stood tall again early in the second period. The Hawks came out of the gate hard and controlled play in the Jets end for the better part of the first five minutes. Hutchinson not only stopped five shots but did a great job of holding onto the puck to get a key faceoff when the skaters were getting run ragged by the Hawks big guns.
The rookie continued to shine as the Blackhawks worked a power play later in the second period, making big cross-crease saves on Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp one-timers after Jonathan Toews beat him but hit the iron.
“It was a big start for our organization for Michael Hutchinson,” Maurice said. “Not that we didn’t have full belief that he’s going to play and play well for us for a long time, but his first crack in the NHL I yank him in his first game … and then he comes into Chicago and shuts them out. Good for him.
“It will shorten the frequency until his next start because he’s got lots of confidence and that takes some pressure off Pavelec, which is something we need to do here in terms of the sheer number of starts he gets. And when we get into another one of these back-to-backs, and we have to have him, the guys will see Hutch going into the net with the full belief that we have a chance to win the game.”
Hutchinson was making his first start since the third game of the season when he was pulled after giving up three goals in 22 minutes against the Los Angeles Kings. His only other action was mop-up duty during a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning last month.
The rookie won the backup job in training camp after he put together a brilliant season last year that included a trial stint with the big club and a long playoff run with the St. John’s IceCaps in the AHL.
“This road trip has been great for us,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve really gelled as a team together on the road and I think it shows on the ice. We’re really committed to team defence. It’s unfortunate we didn’t score as many goals as we’d like in the last couple of games but we were still able to get points which is the main thing.”
The Jets opened the road trip with a 4-3 win over the Islanders on Long Island Tuesday, lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Devils in New Jersey on Thursday before beating the Rangers on Saturday.
They return home to play the Nashville Predators Tuesday night at MTS Centre.