Photo Credit: Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports
The Winnipeg Jets appear to be giving Ondrej Pavelec one last shot to run with the starter’s mantle.
After years of subaverage goaltending performances Pavelec was usurped as Winnipeg’s everyday starter in midseason by Michael Hutchinson. It would seem though that Hutchinson’s recent struggles have opened the door enough for Pavelec, and the Czech-born netminder will make his third consecutive start on Thursday night against the NHL’s third most potent offensive team, the St. Louis Blues, according to Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun.
On the year Pavelec has managed a .912 save percentage, which is only a touch below average and represents an improvement on his .906 career mark. He’s been decent in spot duty, and he’s been better than passable in his last two starts against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the San Jose Sharks – both games that the Jets won.
Playing behind a Jets team that has been among the league’s most imposing at 5-on-5 this season, Pavelec doesn’t need to steal games really. All he needs to do is keep them the games close, and y’know, not allow goals on Barrett Jackman dump ins…
If Pavelec can stabilize things for the Jets in the short-term, that would be extraordinarily helpful for an organization that is – and should be – intent on qualifying for the postseason for the first time since returning to Manitoba. These are high leverage starts with the Jets in the thick of a crowded, busy knife-fight of a playoff race.
That said, hopefully Jets management will regard whatever Pavelec accomplishes down the stretch here with a critical eye. We know with a good degree of confidence what Pavelec is at this point in his career, and that’s a below average NHL goaltender. Going forward Hutchinson should still be the guy.
As Garret Hohl explained earlier this week though, giving Hutchinson some time to catch his breath and work through any confidence issues that may have bubbled up as a result of his brutal form since the All-Star break is a sensible approach for the Jets to take here:
We’re about 2000 shots shy from getting a real confident look of Hutchinson’s true-talent level. Still, Hutchinson has performed well on average. He has also out performed Pavelec on the whole, despite not playing well as of late. He also has strong indications of high talent due to performance in lower leagues.
While we are not as confident about Hutchinson being the superior netminder choice as we would be if we were given a 3000 shot sample on Hutchinson, all current indications are that he still gives the Jets the best chance at making the playoffs.
The caveat though is the human factor. Often the human factor is falsely applied to make sense of randomness, but it is a real thing. Hutchinson offers the Jets best chance, but they gain an even better chance if they can bring his confidence back up.
The Jets need Hutchinson, but they need a confident Hutchinson.
Giving Pavelec some run here makes sense, but over the short-, medium- and long-term though, it’s still clear which goaltender the Jets should be leaning on. And that goaltender is not Pavelec.