By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
Turning the corner into the Winnipeg Jets dressing room after a loss is usually a depressing venture. On Monday night, however, when the same, usual corner was taken, the glowing face of Michael Hutchinson was a light in the darkness.
Make no mistake, Hutchinson was far from happy with the loss, but the excitement of playing three periods of hockey in the “The Show” was more than evident on the face of the 24-year-old.
“I thought I played pretty well,” said the former London Knight. “There were some times where nerves get a little bit of the best of you and you start overthinking the situation, but overall I think I gave the team a chance to win the game and I thought the team battled hard all night. It was just unfortunate we couldn’t pull out that win.”
Hutchinson’s road to his first NHL start has been a wild one. He started this season with the Ontario Reign of the East Coast Hockey League, graduated to the American Hockey League with Jets’ affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps, and then was brought up to the big club to back up Al Montoya when Pavelec was injured and then re-called when Montoya took Pavelec’s spot in the infirmary.
“Everyone hopes to play a game in the NHL every season but realistically I didn’t think it would be possible,” said Hutchinson, who looked right at home in the NHL, making 16 saves on the night. “I am very fortunate, I was in some good situations and was able to play well this year.”
His solid play produced a 15-5-1 record with the IceCaps and have eight wins in a nine-game winning streak last month. Hutchinson noted that there were some differences between the American league and the NHL, but that the team rallied around him.
“The speed of the game is a lot different, passes are just that much more crisp but at the same time the team in front of you is that much better as well so the guys made it pretty easy for me,” said Monday night’s second star of the game.
Hutchinson didn’t face a shot in the first four minutes and change of the contest, a little unnerving but something he says he handled well.
“It was nice when I finally did get that shot (on goal), it was dumped in from the red line so that made it that much easier,” Hutchinson explained. “It was definitely cool to have the fans cheer after I made that first save. It was definitely something special.”
There may be further “special” times ahead for Hutchinson according to Jets head coach Paul Maurice.
“I think you are going to see Michael one more time — maybe two — but one more time for sure,” said Maurice.
Clearly Maurice was pleased with his netminder’s performance.
“Good for him,” he said. “I thought two good things happened: he looked solid and comfortable, his movements were right and I thought the guys in front of him gave him a chance to get into the game, to feel the game.”