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Game #32 – Hawks vs. Jets: Q&A With Cara T And Derek Gagnon

Cara And Derek are two of the writers on staff at ArcticIceHockey.com. You can follow them on Twitter @HappyCaraT and @DerekGagnon1.

Let’s start at the top. Maybe because it took a few years. Maybe because of where he plays. But this is Mark Scheifele’s second straight year of being a point-per-game. Isn’t it time his name is mentioned in the same class as the top centers in the game?

Cara: Absolutely it is time to consider Scheifele a top centre in the league. The thing to remember about him is he was a late bloomer in junior and really came out of his shell in his draft year after playing in Junior A the previous season. It is no wonder it took him a little bit of time to really show the NHL his skill.

Derek: I do find it strange that he, and linemate Blake Wheeler, can experience repeated success without getting much praise. Playing in Winnipeg definitely plays a slight role in his lack of press in other markets, but I do believe it is time for his name to be mentioned more often. His numbers in the past two seasons have far surpassed others drafted ahead of him, and at this point I’d say he’s the second best player to come out of his draft class (Kucherov being better).

How much of the Jets’ success should be pinned on the revitalization of Connor Hellebuyck?

The Jets have never had consistently good goaltending until this year. This is remarkable and sad all the same. A lot of their success is owed to Hellebuyck, especially early on. Let’s just hope that he remains the goalie who was coached by not-Wade Flaherty this summer and not the goalie coached by Wade Flaherty.

Lots? The recent slide in performance aside, Hellebuyck is the biggest reason the Jets find themselves where they are in the standings. Reliable goaltending has been non-existent in Winnipeg since 2011, with Michael Hutchinson dominating the Blackhawks being an exception. His record at home has been particular dominant, picking up 23 of a possible 24 points in starts at Bell MTS Place. It has been said for some time that the Jets are a playoff team with average goaltending, and they’ve gotten better than average play from Hellebuyck thus far.

How much of the Jets’ success should be pinned on no longer being the dumbest team in the league and curtailing their penalties per game to middle of the pack?

The Jets may still have some very dumb games, but getting rid of Mark Stuart and Chris Thorburn this summer has probably helped get some of the dumb out of their game. In general, the Jets really put an emphasis on taking less penalties this season and playing the game five on five has helped them a lot because they are still not great at killing penalties.

Certainly this has helped. The penalty kill has also improved its performance. The Jets brought former referee Paul Devorski in to work with the team during training camp to help cut down on the penalties, and it seems to be paying off. Staying with special teams, the Jets now have a top five power play to use as well.

Once again, according to the metrics. Matthieu Perreault is one of the most underrated players in the league. What makes him an analytic darling and is he well appreciated up there?

You are taking about Fourth Line Hero Matty P. He is genuinely a fourth line hero on the Jets since his injuries and people are really loving him there because he is able to have less wear and tear on his body while still being great offensively. In short, people love his style of play and are fine with his usage because he drags the fourth line to respectability all by himself.

Every time he gets hurt, people slam Mathieu Perreault, but the fact is he’s a very good player. I fully expected him to be picked up by Vegas last summer, and was quite happy to see him stick around when the Jets opted to protect 7-3-1. When healthy, he can contribute in any of the 12 forward positions, and is currently occupying a fourth line spot while getting power play time. He’s a very smart player, and I don’t think I can stress that enough. His positioning and awareness on the ice is great, and he makes players around him better. So is he appreciated? Yes, but not as much as he could be.

Is this all for real? How far can the Jets go?
I think this is for real and as far as Hellebuyck can take them.
I think this can be a playoff team, because of the number of skilled players. The Jets boast one of the top few top 6 forward groups in the NHL, and some talented young defenders in Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey. Combined with decent goaltending, they’re top-eight in the West. 
I was hesitant at first, but the longer it goes the more it seems that it might be a second trip to the post-season since relocating from Atlanta in 2011. My father projects that somehow the Jets will make it to the Western Conference Final before losing to Nashville. So yea, I’ll go with that.

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