The Winnipeg Jets got off to their best five game start since moving to Winnipeg, and the franchises best since 2009 when they were still known as the Atlanta Thrashers. Going 4-2 to start the season, Winnipeg has proven thus far that last year was no fluke, and this team appears ready to take the next step.
One of the major reasons this team has found so much success early has been the play of their goaltenders, Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson. Both have put up fantastic numbers so far this season and it has carried the Jets to a pretty strong start of the season.
Jets goaltending had its moments last year, but they were inconsistent at best. Pavelec started the season rather shaky and was replaced by Hutchinson as the starter at around the 25 game mark. Hutchinson was brilliant as a starter for a while. There was even talk of him deserving to be an All-Star. Shortly after the break Hutchinson’s game began to slip. Whether it was fatigue or the pressure of the playoffs looming, Hutchinson returned to the back up role and watched Pavelec play almost the entire stretch run and into the playoffs.
Though the Jets ended last season with some stellar goaltending, the inconsistency throughout the year definitely affected them, both in the standings and mentally. When every night there is a question in the crease, the team plays differently in front. For the Jets to improve from last seasons result, the question mark in the net needed to go away.
Two Headed Monster
The #NHLJets are getting stellar goaltending from both Pavelec and Hutchinson to start the year. Hutch stops 40/41 tonight — .976 sv%.
— 𝗗𝗮𝗿𝗿𝗶𝗻 𝗕𝗮𝘂𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗴 (@DarrinBauming) October 14, 2015
When a team has one goalie that can get the job done they are in good shape. However, if a team can get exceptional goaltending every night, even when their back-up is in, that team becomes very dangerous. That is what the tandem of Pavelec and Hutchinson has given the Jets this season and no matter who coach Paul Maurice chooses on any given night the Jets can win. The numbers speak for themselves. The Jets have given up 13 goals in their six games this year. Two of those have been empty netter. Both goaltenders have save percentages well into the .900’s, Pavelec at .926 and Hutchinson at .968. The goals against averages are just as impressive with the Jets allowing just 2.17 goals against per game.
As team stats go the goalies just stand out more. The Jets once again this season rank in the bottom five in shots against per game (33 shots), and minor penalties (23 minors). This puts a lot of pressure on the goaltenders, not just in the amount of shots but also the quality. Whether it be Pavelec or Hutchinson, the Jets have gotten what they need to succeed.
In every game this year the Jets have had a chance, often thanks to their goaltenders. In game 1 the Jets scored six goals, but the offense did not come until the second period. Winnipeg was out-shot 14-6 in the first and that game could have easily been 2 or 3-0 after the first had Pavelec not been rock solid. Game 2 had Hutchinson in the goal, 21 shots and 20 saves got the Jets to 2-0 on the year. Game 3 was Winnipeg’s first loss, but to put it on Pavelec would be ludicrous. Out-shot 44-24, the Jets were dominated all game, not to mention the 6 penalty kills they were forced into. Pavelec gave up three goals and gave the Jets a chance in a game they had no business being part of. This trend has continued in all six games this season, whomever is in net, the Jets have been given a great chance to win. It is unlikely these huge numbers will sustain all season, but if the Jets can get goaltending which ranks inside the top ten, they have the skill up front to win a lot of games. This team has clearly improved, and if their goaltending has as well, they become a frightening team in the Western Conference.
Born and raised Winnipeg sports fan and contributor with The Hockey Writers.