It always come to this it seems. The Winnipeg Jets have a decent team only to undone by goaltending. In past seasons it has been attributed the general badness of Ondrej Pavelec. This year is different though. This year features a sharp drop-off in play from new starter Michael Hutchinson that is so steep it resembles a nosedive rather than the expected regression.
Before the All Star Break Michael Hutchinson was saving an unsustainable .9029 percent of shots he faced in short handed situations. After the All Star Break he regressed to an .8182 short handed save percentage. Although the drop-off is huge, it does not explain the levels that Hutchinson's game has fallen. That happens when even-strength save percentage brought into the equation. Prior to the All Star Break Hutchinson was stopping .9435 shots at even strength and post All Star Break he is stopping only .8956 shots at even strength. Hutchinson has not only been regressing a little bit, but he has fallen off a cliff unexpectedly.
The thing about regression is it can take a season or more for regression to set in. Jonathan Cheechoo regressed from a 50 goal season. Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators will regress at some point. With Hutchinson, regression happened unexpectedly and more severely than anyone expected. Most fans would have been fine if Hutchinson regressed to a league average goalie over the long-term because that is what the Jets need to make the playoffs. The fact that they had hot goaltending when they were dressing the corpse of a defensive core probably helped them deal with the lack of experience and skill on the back-end.
The Jets are in need of average goaltending to make the playoffs. That is a .917 save percentage. Recently, they have been getting average from Ondrej Pavelec, which is good but also should be met with caution because this has been seen from Pavelec one hundred times before and there is little evidence to suggest the hundred and first time will be any different from the previous times. The Jets need some stable goaltending to get them through to the end of the season and unless they are willing to bank on Pavelec holding form AND Hutchinson finding his game, they need to do something radical.
The Jets should recall Connor Hellebuyck. This is a slightly insane idea, but Hellebuyck's track record is stronger than Pavelec's and Hutchinson needs time to find his game. This idea is aided by the fact the St. John's IceCaps have been eliminated from playoff contention and therefore do not need their number one goalie for the playoffs. The Jets main objective this year seems to be making the playoffs and their current goalies should leave a little doubt in their heads that it is an attainable objective.
The Jets are a good team. They may be defeated by their own goaltending again. While it was predictable that Pavelec would be uneven again this season, the fall of Hutchinson post All Star Break was not something anyone was counting on. The Jets need consistently average goaltending to make it to the playoffs this year. They need someone who will not let in questionable goals every five games.
The Jets should make the playoffs. They have played well enough to make the playoffs. The only thing that will keep them from making the playoffs outside of a tiebreak is goaltending. When Ondrej Pavelec starts to slip, they need to be brave, understand that Michael Hutchinson is broken and Pavelec is Pavelec. When both goalies start to struggle, it may be time to give Hellebyuck a chance. The worst thing that happens is he is no better than the other two, but that is highly unlikely.