A thorough analysis of Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelec
The City of Winnipeg are on the heels of experiencing the second major layoff from the Jets since 2011, although one would imagine these citizens were better prepared than any other in the NHL for coping with the lockout. In fact, it was business as usual for them, with no Jets action this fall for the 17th time in the past 18 years!
The re-born Winnipeg franchise is still very much in a honeymoon phase with no real results expected this season aside from player development and a more chiseled carving of core pieces for the future. A huge piece of their future is undoubtedly Ondrej Pavelec, who has had a couple of respectable seasons in a row heading into the 2012-13 campaign, with a sub 2.90 SV% since 2010, dating back to the Thrashers days.
Despite suspect defense and a squad generally pegged by pundits to finish in the bottom five of the league by season’s end, Ondrej’s enjoyed a career best start out of the gates. His .932 % Save Percentage through the NHL’s 2013 opening week has him entrenched in the top 15 ranked netminders in the league, even though currently experiencing the detrimental loss of the club’s top defensive prospect, Zach Bogosian to indefinite injury.
They’ve already beaten the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and took the Boston Bruins to the brink in a shootout loss in this young season. However, the question is, “Will we reasonably be able to expect this level of performance to continue in similar fashion for the Winnipeg Jets?”
Let’s take a closer look.
The Jets have surprised many so far, considering their defensive core had allowed shots on goal from one of the closest average ranges/per shot attempt, sitting in 22nd of 30th clubs with an average distance of 35.28 feet. Naturally, the further the average shot attempt distance, generally the better that defensive group is at boxing out the opposition, preventing dangerous scoring opportunities and forcing bad angled shots.
One would think that the closer opponents are let in to the goal, the more often they are likely to find the twine. However, the Jets have gone against the grain thus far, with Pavelec happily sporting solid goaltending stats across the board; albeit a small sample size of just four games. Therefore, its reasonable to assume that this run of luck is bound to run out with Pavelec playing as if most attempts were coming all the way back from the blue line or beyond.
This simply cannot last forever, especially with mostly offensively inclined defensemen manning the Jets blue line, such as former winger, Dustin “Big Buff” Byfuglien & Tobias Enstrom. Expect Ondrej’s numbers to balance out and take a bit of a hit, though likely not too much, as he’s still ahead of his normal statistical trajectory.
The work stoppage certainly cramped many players’ styles, as a large portion of the NHL body found themselves inactive, in meaningful leagues or otherwise. Therefore, those who chose to go overseas or play semi-professional hockey domestically definitely have gained a competitive advantage on their peers that they would otherwise not normally have.
Case in point Pavelec, who spent time in his native Czech Republic staying fresh with Liberec Bili Tygri HC of the Extra Liga, alongside temporary teammates such as Ladislav Smid and former NHL star, Petr Nedved. He certainly has appeared to have an edge on those such as the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night, surprising them with a come from behind victory. The Penguins, aside from Evgeni Malkin --who tore up the KHL, is generally a roster full of guys like Sid the Kid, Kris Letang, James Neal and Marc-Andre Fleury who stayed stagnant during the lockout.
Pavelec would be wise to lose sight of these numbers he’s managed to accumulate thus far, or at least address them with a grain of salt. He must push forward with the same mentality that could possibly have the Jets challenging for a playoff spot when they otherwise wouldn’t. However the reality of it al, is Pavelec likely hasn’t come to close to facing his stiffest competition yet with the sedentary players of the lockout just now getting warmed up.
Expect more shots to continue to be fired off against Ondrej in dangerous locations on the ice, just as the defensive core in front of him has allowed up tol this point. Ultimately and unfortunately, Pavelec and the Jets are more than likely slated for a slippery slope down the standings, assuming the absence of a miracle or a radical upgrade to the roster.
(Give Anthony Lancione a follow on Twitter @Anthisdaman)
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