Most NHL followers have seen the statistic pop up on their television. Over the past three seasons, only Alexander Ovechkin has scored more goals than the Sharks’ Joe Pavelski. Since the start of the 2013-14 season, Pavelski has scored 103 goals in 214 regular season games. The Wisconsin native is one of the highest scoring wingers in the league, but that’s only part of his game.
While the 31-year old’s increase in goal scoring has certainly been aided by locking in a spot on Joe Thornton’s right wing, he has always been able to finish. During the 2009-10 season, Pavelski played mostly his natural center position on the Sharks’ second line. Even without Thornton, Pavelski still managed to score 25 goals in only 67 regular season games. His primary linemates were Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi, good but not great players.
No. 8 in teal has always had a wicked wrist shot. His three career playoff OT goals are all of the wrist shot variety from the mid-slot area. All three of them were glove-side, top-corner snipes. The example below came during the 2011 playoffs when Pavelski centered the third line for the second half of the season and into the playoffs. During that regular season he still scored 20 goals and finished with 66 points, a career-high in points at the time.
When you combine Pavelski’s uptick in goal scoring with the fact that he plays on the west coast, it is understandable that his overall game gets overlooked. While Pavelski has become one of the NHL’s elite scorers, he is arguably the hardest working of the top goal scorers with the highest hockey IQ. Other elite forwards have more dominant skill sets and can take over a game on pure individual talent, but Pavelski thinks about the game on another level. His unselfish play and versatility are what make him stand out. While he can score one-timers on the power play à la Ovechkin, he is also a tremendous puck distributor and arguably the best in the league at tipping in point shots for goals.
Joe Pavelski Passes Pucks Perfectly
Players like Ovechkin and Pavelski’s teammate Brent Burns are rapid fire shooters, constantly pulling the trigger. Ovechkin and Burns are more physically gifted/talented than Pavelski with their size, speed and power behind their longer distance shots. There is little doubt though that the smaller No. 8 has better vision.
He’s not quite the passer that Thornton is, but he’s not that far off. In San Jose’s impressive 3-1 win in St. Louis on Thursday, Pavelski’s two brilliant assists staked the Sharks to a 2-0 lead. The first came on a temporary make-shift line with Logan Couture and Joonas Donskoi. On this play, Pavelski drives through the middle of the neutral zone and perfectly backhand sauces a lead pass through the two defensemen into open space so Donskoi can skate into the lane and bury the goal past Brian Elliott. This Pavelski pass was an absolute thing of beauty, just like Aaron Rodgers dropping in a perfect touch pass leading a wide-receiver in football.
Later in the period, the Sharks had seen their four-on-three advantage expire when Pavelski was perfectly set up for a one-time shot. Instead of shooting though Pavelski realizes that the shot from that far out on a short feed from Marc-Edouard Vlasic isn’t likely to beat Elliott. That said, he knows Elliott is having to slide over to his right, so Pavelski quickly pump fakes and simultaneously feeds Thornton to Elliott’s left side for an easy goal. Elliott simply had no time with the quick, one-time pass from Pavelski to get back over to position himself to stop Thornton. If you notice, even teammate Logan Couture is fooled into thinking Pavelski is shooting because he jumps in the air thinking he has to try to avoid getting hit in the leg with the shot.
Pavelski knows people view him as a goal scorer and he has the astute awareness to pass up a good shooting opportunity to set up Thornton for an even better look. Not many players in the world who can shoot like Pavelski can also make these kinds of unselfish plays. Pavelski certainly isn’t the biggest or fastest player out there but his all-around game is second to none. If he did have the size and speed of a Burns or Ovechkin, he would likely be the best player in the world. Everything else about his game is off the charts.