Ondrej Pavelec out for at least December; Welcome to the Hutchinson and Hellebuyck show

Paul Maurice, as reported by Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun, stated that Ondrej Pavelec has suffered a “significant knee sprain” and the Jets are not anticipating a return until January or February.

The Jets in turn have called up goaltender prospect extraordinaire Connor Hellebuyck from the Manitoba Moose.

While no one wishes (or at least should wish) ill on another human being, there is a silver-lining to the cloud though with the Jets goaltending may actually improve with this exchange.

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“Goaltenders are voodoo” – many people, myself included.

The now popular term has grown beyond what it initially represented. It was initially used in regards to how goaltending analysis by either eye-test or statistical methods struggle early due to how much variance and noise their is in goaltending.

One of the best articles on the subject was penned by Gabriel Desjardins, Fooled by Randomness: Goaltender Save Percentage. It shows one example how a goaltender with 40 games and 1000 shots against who posts a 0.925 save percentage at even strength has about a 30% chance of being a league average or worse netminder.

It takes a long while for save percentage to normalize. When goalies make lots of saves, they look good, since they are successfully enacting out their job.

After a long enough time though the noise begins to diminish and a goaltender’s true talent starts to show. The industry standard typically sits at about 3000 shots unless using more advance measures than save percentage.

Jets’ fans should understand this relationship due to Ondrej Pavelec.

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Pavelec has stopped 90.7 per cent of shots over his tenure as a Jet. He however had a strong season stopping 92.0 per cent just last season. But, if you break his time nearly in half, Pavelec has stopped only 90.7 per cent of his last 2988 shots. The previous 3838 Pavelec also stopped 90.7 per cent of shots.

In short spurts a below average netminder can go on a hot streak, just like an above average netminder can underperform. The latter should serve as a reminder for the Jets as they go with their new tandem.

It’s reasonable to believe the Jets new tandem surpasses the predecessor; however, in just a month or two anything can and probably will happen.

Still, if you have to place a bet, you will do reasonably well with picking netminders who have been exceptional in stopping the puck at every level.

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All three of Pavelec, Hutchinson, and Hellebuyck found success prior to turning pro. Pavelec posted strong numbers in junior, including an exceptional 0.928 save percentage in his rookie season, while Hutchinson was above average relative to his peers in the OHL. Hellebuyck though stopped more pucks per shot than any goaltender ever has sustained in NCAA’s history.

The first good sign for the future is when we look at the goaltenders’ career AHL numbers:

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The league average for the AHL tends to sit around 0.912 for save percentage, although it bounces around a bit depending on the year.

Overall we see that Hellebuyck has performed superior to Hutchinson or Pavlelc in terms of stopping the puck at the American Hockey League level.

In addition we see that Hutchinson outperformed Pavelec in the AHL. It’s not surprising then that we see Hutchinson consistently stopping more shots at the NHL level than Pavelec. The sample is still not conclusive with only 1222 shots against, but thus far Hutchinson’s 0.914 save percentage looks a lot better relatively speaking.

In short: we have a pretty good idea what we have with Ondrej Pavelec, and what that is is not good enough. We still don’t know for sure what we have with Hutchinson or Hellebuyck, but what we do know is very positive.

There’s enough here for Jets’ fans to be excited over, although reasonable expectations and understanding that the results may differ from expectations in the short run should definitely be kept in mind for something as short as two months.