This won’t be a long article, and it is not going to be loaded with in-depth stats. If anything, I am writing it simply as a ‘tip of the hat‘ to a player that for the majority of this season I have been very hard on.
That’s not to say I wasn’t right to be hard on Ondrej Pavelec. After all, he was at times God awful for at least half of the season. His glove hand was pitiful, his rebound control left nothing to be desired, and it could be said that he costed the Jets a handful of games.
Let me take you back to March 8th.
The Jets were coming off of a win in Tampa Bay that saw backup Al Montoya play fabulously. Just previous to that, Ondrej had played back to back games in which he looked slightly slow, let in a few weak glove hand shots, and the team simply did not look confident in front of him. Both MSM and bloggers alike were shocked to hear that Pav was going to get back between the pipes for a matchup against the Panthers, a team that had stunned the Jets just days before, and there was a feeling of a goalie controversy slowly brewing.
Then Ondrej the Giant showed up.
Playing what to that point was his best game of the year, Pavelec made 38 of a potential 40 saves, including 21 in the third period alone, and kept the Jets in the game so they could pull off a win in overtime. Since that day, The Winnipeg Jets have had a different goaltender. It was as if he felt the pressure and heard it all, and made it his goal to shut us all up.
Time and time again over the last 11 games, Ondrej Pavelec has stepped up and kept the Jets in games they may have otherwise been blown out of. His glove hand seems to have become useful again, he is controlling rebounds or at least shutting down the extra opportunities, and he is making those simply spectacular saves he has become famous for. He has been steady, and other than the disgrace that was the back to back games against Washington, has given the Jets a chance to win every night. He has stopped 296 of 322 shots faced for a .919 Sv%, and in that time span the Jets have gone 7-3-1. Now those numbers may not be Vezina worthy, but expanded over the entire season would have placed him tied for 13th in the league. Ahead of goalies like Carey Price, Marc-Andre Fleury, Pekka Rinne, James Reimer and Niklas Backstrom.
Most importantly to the organization as a whole, those numbers would validate the contract he signed this off-season, as his numbers would be up there with contract comparable goalies Antti Niemi (.920), Cory Schneider (.921), Kari Lehtinen (.919) and Devan Dubnyk (.917).
Now, I haven’t forgotten the Pav of old. His career numbers still aren’t great, and he does still sit with a .905 Sv%, which leaves him 30th in the league (that gives you a bit of a glimpse into how bad he really was). What I am saying is that if the Jets want to make any sort of run for, or deep into the playoffs, they need a goaltender playing at the level Pavelec is. The Jets defensive play hasn’t been terrible, but quite often has break downs and needs a guy to make that big save. Moving forward, if Pav keeps playing as he has been, I’m more than okay with him being that guy.