WINNIPEG — You wouldn’t blame the Winnipeg Jets for coming away looking like they’d seen a ghost.

Okay, not an actual ghost, but rather a previous version of themselves — because that’s what the New York Rangers resembled on Sunday night at Canada Life Centre.

The Rangers are not a carbon copy, but they are a reasonable facsimile of the best version of the Jets, the one that features a high-end goalie who puts up a brick wall and frustrates opponents before forcing them into a costly mistake or three that leads to an opportunistic goal.

This isn’t about rewritten history, hopping into the hot-tub time machine or living in the past, it’s about recognizing parallels that were clear as day to the naked eye in the first meeting between the two clubs since February of 2020.

At a time when the Jets are still searching for consistency and tumbling down the Western Conference standings by going 1-1-1 on a road trip that wraps up Tuesday against the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning, there is growing evidence that this task just might be too much to overcome.

With a record of 24-22-10, the Jets have reached the point where they can allow themselves roughly one loss per week for the remainder of the regular season — and even that may not be enough to earn an invite to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

That’s a ridiculous pace for the best team in the NHL to keep up and the Jets are not close to playing at an elite level regularly right now.

However, when it comes to playing at an elite level, Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin is standing at the front of the line this season.

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Not only is Shesterkin the front-runner to win the Vezina Trophy, he’s a serious candidate to be a finalist — if not outright capture — the Hart Trophy.

This is not hyperbole.

By making 45 saves, Shesterkin lowered his goals-against average to 1.93 and raised his save percentage to .942 in his 36 starts.

He also leads the NHL in goals saved above expected, according to Moneypuck.

Shesterkin is doing incredible things, which has given the Rangers hope and returned them to contender status, despite being outshot and outchanced on multiple occasions.

Sunday’s contest featured an abundance of quality saves from Shesterkin, whose team scored 121 seconds into the first period, added a power-play goal before the frame was over and never really looked back.

The Rangers’ big guns were heavily involved, including former Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba, who chipped in his ninth goal and 19th assist of the season to go along with a physical game that included three hits and two blocked shots in more than 20 minutes of action.

When speaking to reporters in Winnipeg after the game, Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck showed some vulnerability, choosing to share his honest feelings about his disappointment level.

At the same time, he quickly disputed having any concerns about a heavy workload even though he’s started 47 of the Jets’ 56 games so far.

“You know, I feel good. I think we’re managing my body well. I’m getting the rest I need,” said Hellebuyck. “It’s typical, at this time of year, to get a little run down but I think I’m strong and I’m ready.”

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Hellebuyck also provided a stick tap to the guy standing in the crease at the opposite end of the arena.

This compliment wasn’t being given in a passing of the torch situation, it was more a matter of someone who knows a thing or two about serving as the backbone of his team and recognizing when one of his peers is delivering in that role.

“He was great. I mean, he was a big difference,” said Helleuyck. “I believe he’s putting up some ridiculous numbers. I don’t watch him every single game but I know tonight he was great so yeah, it must be a good feeling for him.”

There hasn’t been as much for Hellebuyck to feel good about of late, as he’s allowed 18 goals over his last four starts — giving up four, four, four and six markers as the Jets went 1-2-1 over that stretch.

The topic of goaltending always seems to be a complicated one for the Jets.

Since Hellebuyck has often covered up the sins of those who skate in front of him, when he’s not supplying above-average to elite levels of performance or when he’s not the best goalie in the game being played, the alarm bells go off.

Hellebuyck looked and sounded demoralized at times during his interview, but there was also a calmness when it came to his self-assessment.

When asked about Chris Kreider’s second goal of the contest, Hellebuyck conceded that he wished that he’d play things differently.

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As Kreider burst past a flat-footed Nate Schmidt and cut to the net, Hellebuyck attempted a pokecheck but was unable to thwart the effort as the Rangers power forward from scoring his 38th goal of the season (which pulls him within a goal of Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews in the chase for the Rocket Richard Trophy).

“I had a different read than what actually happened. I’d have to rewatch it and see where I went wrong but if I could redo (it), I wouldn’t poke check. I would just slide with him,” said Hellebuyck, whose goals-against average rose to 2.95 while his save percentage dipped to .910. “But (the) poke check worked earlier in the game and I have a lot of success with it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”

The context of the play in question is that Hellebuyck hasn’t had a great deal of success on breakaways, so you have to appreciate the fact he tried something different, even if it didn’t work out.

Shesterkin has done this to other teams many times this season, but this most recent outing highlighted another one of the Jets’ recurring issues.

It was another case of the Jets scoring two goals or fewer, which represents the 25th time that’s happened (for those of you keeping score at home Winnipeg’s record in that situation is 1-19-5).

It was also another night when the Jets’ suspect puck management fed the transition game of the opponent and ultimately led to the red light going on three times at even strength.

Now trailing the Nashville Predators by eight points (with the Predators holding a game in hand), the Jets have seven games remaining before the arrival of the NHL trade deadline.

No matter how much Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff believes in this group, he is obligated to look for ways to try and improve this team and it doesn’t necessarily end with moving his pending unrestricted free agents.

As an aside, for as well as the Rangers have played this season in putting together a record of 36-15-5 to sit second in the Metropolitan Division, their forward depth would definitely be enhanced by the addition of someone like versatile forward Andrew Copp — who would likely fit in seamlessly with Barclay Goodrow, an off-season addition who is up to 12 goals after scoring on Sunday.

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The Jets defence corps was upgraded during the off-season, but there are also prospects in the system who need to gain some additional NHL experience and the best way to do that is through a trade (or two).

But that’s a topic that will be thoroughly dissected during the coming days and weeks.

For the time being, Nikolaj Ehlers shared some thoughts about the Jets’ current lot in life.

“Well the mood is (expletive). I’m not going to sit here and say we’re all happy, because we’re not,” said Ehlers, who played just under 19 minutes in his second game after missing the previous 19 with a knee injury. “We know where we’re at. We’re not in a playoff spot. That’s what you work hard for during the summer, and that’s what you battle for in the regular season. We’ve had some games where we’ve played really well, and really been where we wanted to be.

“Obviously there’s been games where maybe we shouldn’t have won that we won, and the other way around. But we’ve got to start winning some games. So there’s no excuses. We’ve just got to win some games.”

We’ll leave the last word to Hellebuyck, who was asked to once again weigh in on the predicament the Jets find themselves in.

“It’s not going the way we hoped,” said Hellebuyck. “You can only imagine how frustrating it is in the room. I don’t think it’s from lack of effort. I know that everyone cares and everyone wants it, but it’s just not going our way.

“Everyone’s trying. Everyone’s really emotionally in it. And then we’re not getting the results that we expect. It’s tough on the mental game.”

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