During a news conference before Tuesday night’s game at MTS Centre, Winnipeg Jets owner Mark Chipman was asked if his hockey team could beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. As a child, growing up in Winnipeg, Chipman had been a Bruins fan and admitted that he was thrilled that the Bruins were actually playing against his "new favorite team."
"It’s going to be a tough game," Chipman said. "Let me put it this way. If we’re going to win, our goalie has to be the star of the game."
It’s almost like he called it.
With 15,004 spectators going absolutely bat-shit crazy, the upstart Jets beat the Bruins 2-1 and goaltender Ondrej Pavelec was the first star. By a mile.
Pavelec made 39 saves to get the win and even assisted on Andrew Ladd’s opening goal as he led the Jets past a team that had won 13 of their last 14 games (13-0-1). The Bruins were outstanding on Tuesday night, but they had no answer for Pavelec, who has now won three straight. The Jets are now 12-11-4 and have moved a point behind eighth-place Ottawa in the East.
Tuesday night, there wasn’t anything else you could say about the Jets. Say "Ondrej Pavelec" and you said it all. The team played hard and actually outshot Boston in the third period (14-13), but if Pavelec isn’t almost perfect, the Jets don’t win.
"You can’t say enough about the fans," said Jets forward Chris Thorburn. "You can’t imagine how loud it gets in here and we really feed off that. All elements of our game are working right now and it all starts with Pavo in net. He was great tonight. He’s tied with me in points, too — a three-way tie with me, him and Mason. That’s embarrassing. We wouldn’t be winning games right now if he wasn’t playing the way he is. We have no problem with our goaltending."
"I thought we were doing some good things, we didn’t make too many mistakes," said head coach Claude Noel. "We were playing for keeps, we weren’t backing off. And those fans?! Those fans get into it in this building. Those people want to be on the bench. The fans are great.
"And what more can you say about Pavelec? He’s playing pretty solid. The goaltding we’ve got gives us a chance to win every game right now. We get one or two goals and that might be enough for us. That gives a team a lot of confidence. Pavelec’s really impressive. It’s good stuff."
There were 15,004 people inside MTS Centre Tuiesday night who would definitely agree. And suddenly, the once-wonky Winnipeg Jets are in a playoff hunt.