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Connor Hellebuyck is a recent Vezina Trophy winner and three-time finalist in the past six years, including this season after backstopping the Winnipeg Jets into the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a remarkable 37-25-2 record, .920 save percentage and four shutouts in 64 games.

So, having Hellebuyck sit down with us for a lengthy Pro Reads video breakdown session is a special treat, but what had the InGoal crew even more excited was hearing former playing partner Eric Comrie rave about Jets workhorse No.1 being a perfect candidate for this format because of how remarkably he reads the game. Hellebuyck did not disappoint with his insights and anticipation skills, so let’s not waste any more of your time getting to them.

THE SEQUENCE AND SAVE

Hellebuyck is facing a shorthanded 2-on-1 against the Calgary Flames in his Pro Reads debut, and because pace is so important part when assessing an odd-man rush, we’ll go straight to the video. But before you click play, try to ask yourself when you know if this is a shot or pass?

At what point in that sequence were you confident that Mikael Backlund was shooting?

When do you think Hellebuyck figured it out?

Secondly, at what point, if any, did you know that shot was headed short-side high?

What clues gave away the location of Backlund’s shot?

Lastly, looking at the screen shot below, what did you make of Hellebuyck’s positioning as Backlund closed in? Did you notice anything else about how he handled this rush?

Is Hellebuyck on angle? Can you think of any reason he might be slightly off on purpose?

THE PRO READ

Let’s hear how Hellebuyck approached this and how he knew a shot was coming (and where):

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It was interesting to hear Hellebuyck talk about how early he was anticipating shot.

“Most guys who are shooting, they don’t look for an early pass and he’s passing just inside the blue line,” Hellebuyck explained of the initial pass before turning his attention to Backlund.

“He’s a lefty so I know I can stay on my feet. I know it’s not a downhill pass so I take as much angle as I can,” Hellebuyck continued. “You can see how he’s looking for shot, he’s not looking for pass, that blade is not turned over, his eyes are still on me, so you can kind of feel where he’s committing. At this point I am baiting him blocker a little bit because I’ve held my ground on the glove side and he looks like he’s releasing blocker, so I just kind of lean into it.”

As for his positioning, Hellebuyck admits it’s not centered as he tries to bait Backlund to the blocker, but in doing so says he knows he only has to react to one side.

“I know my next move I have a little bit of room — I’m a little bit off position here to be honest — but I have room to get in position on my blocker side, so I don’t have to react a ton with my glove,” Hellebuyck explained. “It’s going to be mainly a right half of my body reaction.”

Beyond the baiting, Hellebuyck also shared some insights on reading the release, even if in the moment a lot of it is instinctual based on seeing countless shots over the years.

“In order for him to go glove he has to turn his shoulders and body over, which he hasn’t done,” he said/ “You can see by stick and puck placement where pucks are going and this is something that’s not just ‘oh I see it.’ It’s practiced and ingrained in my head over and over from seeing so many shots so now I can recognize that he’s not turning the puck over and going glove.”

There are other elements in this rush that Hellebuyck touches on, like the pass being straight across and not downhill, and how he holds his ground rather than retreating as the attack gets closer, that we will dig into in subsequent Pro Reads. The Jets star is statistically the best in the game at managing these types of attacks, and by a large margin, so having him share some of the details that go into it is a real treat, and we can’t wait to bring you more.

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