Are the Jets turning their season around?: Pavelec In November

The Jets posted back to back shutouts against original
six teams with recent playoff success, turning the narrative of their season
upside down. With Kane back in the lineup, and each goaltender securing their
respective first shutout, it’s hard not to have some excitement that the Jets
are out of the basement and trending upward.

The question, then, is whether the Jets are finally pulling it together, buoyed by the structure we were promised by new coach Paul Maurice. What
can we expect from the team the rest of the way?

November is the Time to Shine

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It almost seems like with the flip of a calendar page, the Jets are a new team. Devotees might remember this feeling from Novembers past, as the Jets have historically posted a 14-10-5 record in Novembers since the move north (remembering that the lockout caused the league to miss one November). That means they collected 57% of the points available in Novembers, up from their 51% rate in every other month since 2011 (with a record of 90-86-19). 

It’s a curiosity and not such a dramatic effect to warrant genuine concern. After all, the team has only played two full Novembers. 

However, Ondrej Pavelec has been a starting goalie since 2009, playing a total of 45 games when the calendar reads November. Looking at his personal stats for that month, the pattern pops.

Pavelec by Month since 2009: 

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  • October: 14-18-6; .907sv%
  • November: 21-17-7; .927sv%
  • December: 16-19-2; .904sv%
  • January: 18-19-6; .904sv%
  • February: 14-19-4; .897sv%
  • March: 17-20-5; .904sv%
  • April: 10-10-2; .899sv%

Since 2009, the only month Pavelec has posted a winning record is November. Stunningly, he did it with a save percentage 20 points higher than he’s historically posted in any other month. Suddenly his 38 save shutout against the Rangers feels a little less like a goalie finally putting his play where his pay is.

Fool Me Once…

Sports are a funny thing. Each season, the Jets ice a (slightly – Cheveldayoff fears change) different team, making any claim of patterns across years somewhat specious. And yet, a pattern emerges when we look at the team’s stats by month.

These are moments where we show what type of fan we are –
the cynics are darkly waiting for the other shoe to drop, pointing out
Pavelec’s long track record and the team’s eye-roll-worthy October, while the
true believers trumpet the emergence of the team they always knew existed under
a patina of disorganization.

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Put me in the cynic pile. We’ve looked at Pavelec every way we can imagine and his body of work speaks for itself. He’s a replacement level goalie who is being paid to be a starter on a small market team and so gets the net given to him. For whatever reasons, November is the month the Jets and Pavelec put on a show, but it has to end every year. Pavelec gets worse as the season wears on and November is just an outlier. He is what he is, and for all the talk of improving his game every season, we know what comes next… December through April and another early spring tee-off. 

  • Jeanm3

    Another great article. No doubt Pavelec is what he is. I do think any goalie can have a much better year than their historical average though. It just remains to be seen whether this is the year.
    I wonder if November is just a random variation. Pavelec’s 5 previous Novembers contained an average of 9 games each. If he got 30 shots per game, he stopped 250 out of 270 shots. Maybe his good Novembers are just him randomly having one less blowout loss per month. Even letting in 4 more goals in the month would bring his Sv% to .911.
    If it is a real effect, the only explanation I can think of is that he gets tuned in / in better shape during Oct, is at peak performance for one month, then gets tired / unfocused, very abruptly, in December and continues that the rest of the season.

    • Kevin McCartney

      Yeah, it’s a hard explanation. October is a hard month to be a goalie, especially on a team that is historically poorly coached, right? The Jets have always come out sloppy to start the year. So maybe November is partly about Pavelec getting fit and partly about the team tightening up. But the shot totals are still very high – 1411 shots in 45 games = 31.34 per game.

      We know his performance is brutal in back to backs, so I think fatigue is a reasonable explanation, especially as his numbers get pretty consistently worse as the season wears on. I don’t know if that’s a fitness thing, exactly. Justin Goldman (the goalie scout) argued that he travels a ton inside his crease in a game compared to more calm netminders like Carey Price. So maybe any NHL athlete would be exhausted playing that way and there’s no more fitness work to be done.

      You’re right that one more ‘blow up’ start each November would change things dramatically, and we know his ‘blow up’ rate is higher than replacement level goalies at ~16% ( so maybe it’s just dumb luck that Novembers have been quiet?

  • Kevin McCartney

    Dumb luck over 45 games? He should have had 7 blow up starts in that span (16%) and I count (manually using his game log, so room for error) exactly 7. I dunno – I feel like there has to be a cause, even if that cause is hidden from fans (fitness, coaching, other things we don’t see).