As a result of a month of solid hockey, Winnipeg Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec has pulled his save percentage rank out of the thirties and forties and into the twenties. His play has been visibly better, the results are posititve and the wins are stacking up. Despite the recent run of positives, the Battle of Ondrej has not relented. Ardent Pavelec supporters are full of I told you sos, the doubters and the numbers folk remain skeptical that this is sustainable.
Well, is it sustainable?
Regardless of what anybody tells you, nobody know for certain if Ondrej's recent run is sustainable. Still, history might be able to give us a few clues. Pavi is coming off a great month - his second best as a Jet - but how does it compare with what he's done over the rest of his career?
- In terms of save percentage, Ondrej Pavelec is coming off his second best month as a Jet.
- Pavelec is pacing for the best statistical season of his professional career - including his time in the AHL.
- Again in terms of save percentage, November is tied for the 4th best month of his career statistically.
- Pavelec has been here before, even stringing together two or three solid months in the past.
- It seems pretty clear that good numbers aren't new to Ondrej, being able to replicate them month to month has been the challenge.
As always, if you see anything different while looking at these numbers, please post it in the comment section.
What can we gleam from this information? We can say with near certainty that the Ondrej we are watching isn't breaking new ground. He has done this before, this really doesn't tell us anything about sustainability though.
What about the eye test? Are we seeing anything different with Ondrej? I believe I am. Ondrej appears to be playing a lot more controlled. I see him tracking pucks better through traffic, better anticipating passing plays and moving less within his crease. He is still prone to over-committing positionally to make the first save, but it has been less of an issue. The fact that we haven't seen Pavelec attempt near as many diving saves should speak volumes about his positioning. Unfortunately, that is just an opinion and one man's opinion doesn't tell us much about sustainability.
What about scheduling? The nerds here at Arctic Ice Hockey have been yammering for a while about how Ondrej needed more rest. Monty has been seeing more ice this year and the back to back Ondrej's are gone this should help. Indeed. No more back to back games will improve his numbers, that is science, but removing back to backs wouldn't be responsible for this much of an upswing. This doesn't really tell us much about Ondrej turning the corner.
Has Al Montoya's increased workload lit a fire under Ondrej's bottom? Maybe. Again, nobody knows this for certain except for Ondrej and perhaps his coaching staff. Still, it may be a factor. Ondrej came to Winnipeg with a reputation of being difficult to coach and perhaps a little bit on the lazy side. It isn't crazy to think a little bit of internal pressure could motivate him. Perhaps it did - perhaps it didn't, but even if Ondrej is newly motivated this doesn't speak to sustainability.
There is no way to know for certain whether or not we are seeing a new Ondrej. Pavelec has gone on hot streaks before - including streaks much longer than this one. Goalie numbers are crazy. Month-to-month and year-to-year consistency is a rarity for every goalie, never mind one as interesting as Ondrej.
Is this sustainable? Nobody knows. I'm sure every Jets fan hopes it is, but regardless of their stance in the Battle of Ondrej, nobody can speak with certainty. Ondrej Pavelec has always had elite physical tools and improvement has always been a possibility, perhaps he is finally there.
One thing we do know is that over the last month Ondrej Pavelec has given the Jets the kind of goaltending that can drive a team into the playoffs. We also know the Jets have dug themselves a deep hole. They will need this version of Ondrej - for the remainder of the season - if they are going to have a chance of making the postseason. Will they get it? Only time will tell.
The same can be said about sustainability. Goalie numbers are crazy. Brian Elliott and Craig Anderson have spent seasons at the top of the league and been average for their rest of their careers. Steve Mason can go from Rookie of the Year to bum and back to Hockey Jesus. It generally takes years to learn what you have in a goalie thus we are probably a couple years away of solid play away from skeptics laying off Ondrej - same can be said for Steve Mason.
As is the case with many wars, most will be dead before we can ever declare a winner in the Battle of Ondrej.