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Myth Buster: Ondrej Pavelec Was Not Let Down By His Team!

This may come as a shock to you, but Ondrej Pavelec wasn't let down by his team in 2011-12.


I will preface this post by saying; I am a fan of Ondrej Pavelec. I believe he will be with the Jets for a long time and he has a good shot at becoming a high end goaltender. That said, I believe he has some major work to do. Scouts love Pavi for his size and physical gifts and mental toughness, but at this point he really hasn't put it all together. He really needs to work on his positional play if he wants to develop consistency. If he can do it, he will be a beast.

Alright, now that the pleasantries are out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty...

Ondrej Pavelec’s 2011-12 numbers were atrocious!

Most people consider goals against average to be a team stat. I agree, so I won’t focus much on goals against average here. I will be focusing primarily on save percentage, because it is much more closely linked to the individual goaltender. Starters generally perform better than backups and good goalies also generally have a better save percentage than bad goaltenders. I don’t think I am going out on a limb in saying any of that.

Ondrej Pavelec Compared to the League

Ondrej Pavelec finished the season with a .906 save percentage, which ranked him 35th among net-minders with 25 or more starts. That is terrible! That lands him in a class with old man Martin Broduer (don’t mistake a few good playoff games with what he looked like all season) and Corey Crawford... Yes, the same Corey Crawford that people seemingly blame for every Chicago Blackhawks loss. It is also worth noting that both of these goaltenders put up bad numbers on very good teams.

Alright, I know I’m not breaking ground on anything new here. Pavi’s terrible save percentage is well documented. I know this isn’t a surprise to Jets fans, but I am not here to break news. I am here to break logic. Let’s look at some other goaltenders for comparison sake.

Pavi's .906 save percentage left him ranked behind luminaries like:

Niklas Backstrom – MIN - (.919) – Admittedly a very good goalie on a very bad team.

Roberto Luongo – VAN - (.919) – Apparently Luongo sucks.

Jean-Sebastain Giguere – COL - (.919) – He wasn't good enough for the Leafs to retain.

Josh Harding –MIN - (.917) – A backup for a terrible, terrible, terrible team.

Jhonas Enroth – BUF - (.917) – A backup for a non-playoff team.

Jose Theodore – FLA - (.917) – He an largely passed up UFA and he can't keep a job.

Devan Dubnyk – EDM - (.914) – Dubs played for an awful team that really needs help on D.

Scott Clemmensen – FLA - (.913) – A career backup.

...and this real doozy...

Curtis Sanford – CBJ - (.911) – A backup playing for THE worst team in the entire league. …a team that allowed 20 more goals than the Jets. He had NO help from his team and he still out performed Pavi.

If that list shows you anything, it should be that save percentage is not a team stat. Those goaltenders put up good numbers on mediocre to bad, bad, bad teams (Luongo aside, obviously). Meanwhile Crawford and Brodeur put up bad numbers on good teams. Is there really a case to be made that the Jets had substantially worse defence than Columbus? Edmonton?

We can’t even blame the penalty kill (which was bad) for Pavi’s numbers. At even strength, Pavi was 31st in save percentage (again goalies with 25+ games played). He was still ranked behind most of the above names, but at even strength James Reimer slid in front of him. That surely doesn’t help his case.

Ondrej Pavelec Compared To Himself

Let’s directly compare Pavi's numbers for the last two seasons:








































There are a few things to note here:

1) Pavi played more, starting 13 more games than he had in any prior season.

2) Pavi won a higher percentage of his games in 2011-12 than in 2010-11.

3) Pavi won those games despite allowing goals at a higher rate.

Now, I know that is a very simple breakdown, but what can we make of these findings? The numbers seem to indicate that Pavi performed worse, but the team was better and thus carried him to more victories. Hmm...

Did The Jets Allow Too Many Quality Scoring Chances?

This has been the cornerstone argument for most the Pav apologists. Apparently, Pavelec was consistently let down by his team. They hung him out to dry, that is why he had awful numbers. I struggle with this logic. Sure, there were some obvious bonehead plays. Johnny Oduya and Randy Jones set up a free pizza delivery service early in the season, but this wasn`t a constant. The team got better as the year went along and the Jets aren`t the only team that turnover the puck.

Does anybody really think the Jets defense was considerably worse than what they've got in Edmonton and Columbus? Sure, those teams beat the Jets (Pavi started both games) but those teams were awful and you saw above that their goalies didn't crap the bed to the tune of .906.

Now, let’s take a look at who the Jets had playing defense.

The Jets top 6 defenders in 2011-12 were:

Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian, Mark Stuart, Ron Hainsey and Johnny Oduya.

Why is that significant? Because that same cast of characters (Less Mark Stuart and plus Brent Sopel) were the top 6 defenders the year before. Do we think they forget how to play? Did they forget how to complete a pass? Did they become significantly more turnover prone? What exactly did they do to hurt Pavi's production? Well… They got better… Does that count?

As a team, the Jets allowed 23 less goals in the 2011-12 than they did the season prior.

That is a sign of an improved defense. They also allowed fewer shots on goal per game. The 2010-11 Thrashers were ranked 20th in shots against / game (SA/G), the 2011-12 Jets ranked a middling 14th. Not a huge improvement, but an improvement none the less.

So let’s put this in the simplest terms; the same group of players allowed less shots and less goals, but somehow played substantially worse team defense and dragged down Pavi’s save percentage? Even if you believe save percentage is a team stat, can you really make an argument that the bad numbers belong to anyone other than Ondrej?

Did Pavelec Give The Team A Chance To Win Every Night?

"He gives us a chance to win every night." This is a great goaltending cliché and one that was bandied about in Winnipeg. We have all heard it before, but is it true in the case of Ondrej Pavelec? Again, I am going to have to say "no."

How many goals can a goaltender allow before his team has no longer has reasonable shot at a win? Most would agree that 4 is a reasonable number. Well, Pavelec allowed 4 or more goals against in 22 of his 68 games played and no, that does not include empty netters. That is 32% or almost one third of his games played. The Jets only won 3 of those games.

To take it one step further, Pavelec allowed 5 or more goals in 13 of his 68 games (19%) played. That is 19% of his games played. The Jets won one of those 13 games.

Break it down any way you want, Pavi crapped the bed once every five games on average and made a win very difficult once every three games. That sure doesn't sound like somebody who gives his team "a chance to win every game." Even if you decide to be generous and put 50% of that on Pavi those numbers aren’t great.

Why Did Odrej Pavelec Allow So Many Goals?

Let’s start with a look at Ondrej Pavelec's scouting report from Hockey's Future:

Pavelec has a good size, which helps him to cover a good amount of the net. He possesses decent skating skills and adequate lateral movement. He plays a quality butterfly style, displays strong athleticism and flexibility. As for the mental side he is calm and also has solid focus and mental toughness. Pavelec shows above-average reading of plays and anticipation; he challenges the shooter well. He has solid reflexes and quickness and is tough to beat on initial shots. Pavelec orientates in traffic well, handles rebounds and plays the angles adequately well.

On the downside, Pavelec needs to keep his conditioning in check and remain consistent. He allows a good number of goals through his five-hole and needs to play better in position when making the saves. He could still improve his glove hand and often he seems to have trouble on high shots. His stickhandling ability is rather average and some of his moves can lead to risky plays. He also tends to play too deep in the net, thus being more vulnerable to shots than dekes.

Reflexes, athleticism, mental toughness, inconsistent, weak glove hand. That still rings true today, doesn't it?

Pavelec is amazing to watch. I love his demeanor and he has proven that he can dominate games. He’s so fast and so athletic that he can stop pucks that no man should, yet he remains wildly inconsistent. I believe the source of his inconsistency is his positional play. Watching Pav fly across the net with a double pad stack or for the TSN play of the year is fun to watch, but also cause by him being out of position and scrambling. The issues with his positioning may have had something to do with his new goalie coach, or it could simply be youth. They are also something that can be worked on.

Moving Forward

I am not trying to say Pavi isn’t our goaltender of the future. We do have to remember just how young he is. I really hope he isn’t close to a finished product. After this year's .906 save percentage, Pavi's career save percentage is down to .907. Those kind of numbers are not acceptable for a starter (outside of Steve Mason).

Pavi really has to turn his game up this year and I think the will. Even if he can regain his 2010-11 form, the Jets will win more games. Pavi is still very likely to be our goaltender of the future, nothing has changed, but the fact is, he took a step back this year. Let’s just hope the off year was a little turbulence on route to stardom.

If you think I am wrong, let me know. I will be welcome to discuss / debate with you.