An oft-debated topic, especially after disappointing performances like the one we saw in the 5-4 OT loss to the Capitals at MTS Center, is whether of not Jets Goalie Ondrej Pavelec is the problem. Is Pavelec’s play central to the disappointing start the 2013-2014 Winnipeg franchise has gotten off to?
Certainly the stats tell a story – and one that isn’t particularly a good one for Pavelec. Pavelec’s goals against average of 3.09 is 31st among NHL net minders. His save percentage of .905 ranks 32nd. Even worse for the Jets and for Pavelec defenders is that these numbers aren’t so much an aberration as they are part of a pattern. Pavelec’s career goals against average is 2.96 and his career save percentage is .906.
Pavelec himself has downplayed the stats. The day after the loss to the Capitals, Pavelec acknowledged that he knows his stats but that he doesn’t focus on them – his focus, he said, is on winning. “if your save percentage is going to be 85 and you get the win – I will take it.”
In Pavelec’s defense, his stats alone don’t tell the full story of the Jets struggles. There are stats – wholly unrelated to his play in net – that make a strong case against pegging Pavelec as THE problem.
Specifically, the Jets have won just 2 of their last 8 games. In 5 of the 6 losses over that stretch, the Jets scored 3 or less goals. In 4 of those 6, the Jets scored 2 or less goals. In 3 of those 6, the Jets scored 1 or less goals.
Not even Tuukka Rask in net is going to win you a lot of games if you simply can’t score goals.
The situation facing the Jets isn’t the same situation faced by a team like Edmonton. The Oilers goalies are giving up an entire goal per game more than the Edmonton offense is putting up. The difference for the Jets is less than half that.
The Jets have scored 25 goals in 10 games, for a respectable 2.50 goals per game – 18th in the league. But if you factor out the first two Jets games, where they put up 10 goals, the Jets have only scored 15 goals in their last 8 games for an average of 1.87 goals per game – a number that would rank 27th in the NHL.
Unlike in Edmonton, where the case can be made that Dubnyk is costing the Oilers wins, the truth is that while Pavelec’s play has not been what you would want out of a #1 goalie, his play – to a large degree – isn’t costing the Jets a ton of wins.
Is Pavelec’s play a problem? Yes. Is Pavelec THE problem in Winnipeg? No.