April 20 2014 09:26PM
Photo via Twitter
As many of you are aware, at the start of this season I set out to answer a few questions in regards to Ondrej Pavelec. Despite what numbers were saying many out there were indoctrinated into the belief that it was the team in front of him, not his play that hampered his performance and results. I wanted to know, was it the play in front of him? Or was it his personal tendencies and shortcomings that were holding him back? How did he compare to Al Montoya behind him? So throughout the season I have tracked every goal scored on either Ondrej Pavelec or Al Montoya to find some answers.
I’ve made the vast majority of my analysis available throughout the season, and have provided not one, but two updates on the results. Finally though, I have gone back and reviewed every goal again and have my results. And let me tell you, they are rather telling.
Just a quick note here, I left out win totals and GAA because I don’t really put much value in either stat. This article explains why and how save percentage is more valuable very well.
Well, let’s just say the basic information is (once again) pretty strongly stacked against Ondrej Pavelec. He finished dead last in the league for total goals against, despite finishing 14th in shots against (the three goalies directly above him in goals against all faced around 200 more shots this year). His save percentage ranked him 46th among goaltenders considered “eligible” by NHL standards (reminder – there are only 30 teams in the league), while Al Montoya finished 17th on the same list.
The sample size may be smaller for Montoya, but judging solely based on basic goaltending numbers this season the Jets would have been much better off with Al Montoya. Would he have regressed with more playing time? It’s possible, but I find it foolish to indict him for something that hadn’t happened yet.
The first factor I took into account was the situation that led to goals against the Jets. A huge argument people have had is that the team played “poorly” in front of Ondrej, and that this is directly correlated with the high number of goals he allows. If this is true, we should see a pretty drastic difference in the situations leading to goals between Ondrej and Al Montoya, as Monty has been able to put some pretty solid numbers together.
***For clarification purposes, an “average play” includes any basic breakout, faceoff loss, controlled zone entry, dump-in, etc. and a “skilled” play is any play that was created due to a highly skilled move that created an opening
The first thing that stands out to me is the difference in penalty kill goals against. Could this be a big factor as to why Pavelec’s numbers are so low? Well, let’s take a look at their numbers during only 5 on 5 situations.
Numbers via Extraskater.com
As you would expect, both goaltenders numbers do rise. Pavelec’s do rise a little bit more, but according to Extraskater.com, he still ranks dead last in Sv% among goaltenders who started at least 50% of their teams games. He’s still well below the league average, and is still a problem regardless. So is this an answer? It’s something to be considered, but I have my doubts.
The second thing I would like to point out is the difference between sustained pressure goals. Obviously sustained zonetime requires more movement (and therefore "work" for the goaltender), which would logically increase the likelihood of a goal against. Top goaltenders in the NHL have the ability to maintain proper positioning and control rebounds in such situations in order to help limit the damage done when their team gets hemmed in their own zone. As you’ll see shortly, Pavelec isn’t very good at doing that. Those issues played a pretty major role in the difference between the two. So while a noticeable difference between the two of them exist, I believe that a portion of that difference is accounted for by Pavelec's inability to adequately control pucks that came at him.
A final number I found quite interesting has to be the difference in turnovers resulting in goals. For a long time the story was that Pavelec was constantly “hung out to dry” by the defensemen in front of him, and seeing this makes me strongly believe otherwise. It happens, of course. Those events stick in people’s minds, but it doesn’t mean they are regular occurrences. Al Montoya was exposed in that fashion more often than Pavelec was all year, but his overall ability allowed him to make up for it in other situations. By no means do I see this as a sign of Pavelec "bailing out" his defensemen following turnovers at a higher rate than Montoya.
While concerns exist in regards to the Jets play in their own end, and it is very clear that the team could use an improvement in that aspect, I cannot justify it as an excuse for Pavelec’s numbers. Especially when it’s pretty evident that Al Montoya gets pretty similar play in front of him as well.
The second, and in my opinion most important, factor I evaluated was why the puck ended up in the net. Was the goalie completely screened? Was he out of position? Did he kick out a rebound that directly led to a goal? While some of these events are pretty obvious (it’s easy to see a rebound or deflection that led to a goal), I will admit that evaluating whether or not a goalie should have stopped a shot is pretty subjective. I went over every goal multiple times (both immediately following and after the season to eliminate as much emotion as possible) and took into consideration the opinions of others. I’m pretty confident in my thoughts and opinions, so here are my final results:
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the downfalls of Ondrej Pavelec. He allows more than double "out of position" goals than Montoya, substantially more as a result of rebounds off of his pads, and is beat by shots he should be stopping at a higher rate as well. All of which are fields that I would consider to be “preventable” goals, and all of which are things that have hampered his performance throughout the majority of his career.
As a result of this, teams were forced to work a lot harder for goals against Montoya, loading up the front of the net and looking for tips, deflections, and shots through traffic. This is also pretty clearly displayed in the numbers. I just want to point out that despite this added traffic and having to deal with deflections, he still managed to keep the percentage of goals scored against him off of rebound down.
In total, 52.2% of all goals scored on Ondrej Pavelec were deemed to be “preventable”, while only 32.2% on Montoya were seen as the same. How big of a difference is this? Well, if Pavelec played to Montoya’s level this season and cut that 20% difference, he would have allowed approximately 32 less goals. His save percentage would have been .920, and the Jets (a team that people constantly spoke about in regards to how many one goal games they were in) would have likely been right in the mix for a playoff spot.
Stings a little bit, doesn’t it?
The final part of my evaluation process was to look at where the puck was beating goaltenders. This was mostly to see if there were any glaring problems or differences between the two.
Things were pretty similar between the two of them in this aspect of their game. Montoya’s glove hand was exposed a lot early in the season, but as he saw more games things started to even out a little bit more. A major concern in my eyes is how high that percentage is for “open net” goals. A lot of those came from being out of position, and you would hope your goaltender would at least give himself a chance at stopping the puck.
With these numbers considered, I find myself even more flabbergasted at the fact that Pavelec has already been named the starting goaltender heading into next season. I’m not surprised given Chevy’s history of decision-making, but it as an extremely ignorant, nonsensical decision. It’s clearly evident that there are better solutions out there, and it appears as if the Jets already had a better solution sitting on the bench all year.
The league handed teams a “get out of jail free” card in the form of two compliance buyouts. Sadly, it seems as if Kevin Cheveldayoff is going to dismiss this glorious opportunity to make right on the biggest contractual mistake he has made thus far. Ondrej Pavelec has consistently produced replacement-level numbers throughout his career, and these numbers show that his tendencies are a huge barrier to his success. There have been no signs of this changing in the past, and I seriously doubt they will change going forward (especially when it’s been made clear that there will not be a change at the goaltending coach position).
The Winnipeg Jets can make major improvements in every other aspect of their team this season, but with Ondrej Pavelec in net I am almost certain that they are set up for failure.