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Pavelec and Hutchinson: How do they compare?

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They battled it out for the starting role all season long, and Pavelec came out the victor. How do the Jets two goalies compare in their underlying abilities?

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

To say that the goaltending situation throughout this 2014-15 Winnipeg Jets season was wacky would be a drastic understatement. The role of hero and goat flip-flopped more than an overcooked pancake, with the role of "starter" never really handed out until Ondrej Pavelec got hot and went on a run at the end of the season. It was a dance and battle in which both Michael Hutchinson and Pavelec showed sequences of brilliance and periods of concern that has left many asking who the best option is moving forward.

Here we will take a look at the situation, reason and shot location of each goal scored on both goaltenders throughout the season and see how the two compare. While the question of who is truly better will likely not be answered for at least another year, we may be able to find some trends and shortfalls in each respective goaltenders game and identify where improvements are needed.

The Basics

First we take a look at the basic statistics that each goalie ended the year with.

Games Played

Shots Faced

Goals Against

Saves

Save Percentage

Hutchinson

41

1074

85

989

.914

Pavelec

50

1353

108

1245

.920

At a glance it's pretty simple: Ondrej Pavelec had the better total season. Pavelec had the best year of his career by a long stretch, finishing well above not only league average, but also his career average. There are many theories being tossed around as to why he performed so well this year (reduced workload, increased fitness, finally achieving his potential, etc.) and while we will likely never know the true reason, it was a big piece to the Jets making the playoffs.

Michael Hutchinson on the other hand went from a saviour and long awaited answer to the Jets goaltending woes to backup goaltender in a month. We still don't have enough data to know exactly what Hutch may become, and I believe that this season only raises more questions about the young goalie.

While the end of season stats make things look pretty simple going forward, when you look at how the second half of the season played out moth-by-month it's easy to see where the confusion comes from.

January

February

March

April

GP

Month Sv%

Cum. Sv%

GP

Month Sv%

Cum. Sv%

GP

Month Sv%

Cum. Sv%

GP

Month Sv%

Cum. Sv%

Hutch

8

.912

.927

8

.898

.920

6

.857

.913

1

.960

.914

Pavelec

5

.911

.911

5

.894

.909

10

.943

.916

4

.965

.920

After a stellar start to the season that earned him a starting role, Hutch went ice cold in February at the same time that Pavelec (who started the year playing as he usually does) got red hot. Ondrej then went on a truly unbelievable run throughout March and April, dragging his subpar save percentage up to career high norms and stealing back the starting role.

While we have seen similar stretches of brilliance from Pavelec before (usually followed up by extremely poor play for a stretch of time), this one was truly magnificent at a vital point in the season, capped off with three straight shut outs to secure the Jets a playoff spot. This has had a tremendous turn-around effect on his perception throughout the city and his treatment by Jets fans which will likely play into next season. Whether this was simply another hot streak or a sudden awakening from an otherwise subpar goaltender we will have to wait and see, but I'm not holding my breath in expectation for it to continue into next year.

The Situations

Here we will observe the situations that led to the goals against our respective goaltenders.

One quick look at these charts and one rather staggering note sticks out. Hutch was the victim of just over 10% more goals coming due to an odd man rush or breakaway than Pavelec at even strength. In fact, in his last 15 games played 12 of the goals scored on Hutch came due to an odd man rush or breakaway. Over Pavelec's last 15 games played, he totalled 4. It's hard not to think that that was a large factor in Hutchinson's number taking a plummet as the year dragged on.

Yes, there is a chance that the Pavelec was simply stopping more breakaways than Hutchinson could. That is where my methods here are limited. But for the numbers to be so drastically different you have to imagine that Hutch simply faced a decent number more of these opportunities than Pavelec did down the stretch.

The Reasons

This is always my favourite part of the breakdown. Here we will look at the reasons that directly led to the goals against each goaltender. It can give us some insight into what teams needed to do to score, and can help identify weaknesses in each goaltenders game.

Looking at these results, it is hard to not have a preference for Hutchinson's style of play over the long term. In both even strength and special teams situations Hutchinson was much better than Pavelec in terms of his positioning and rebound control. These have always been weaknesses in Pavelec's game, and it looks as if the challenger has already surpassed the veteran in those aspects of the game. For these reasons I am more optimistic about Hutch's game as his career continues than Pavelec's.

Both goalies were at fault for a similar percentage of goals against them, which led to teams relying much more on traffic in front of Hutchinson to beat him. To do this, teams generally needed to hem the Jets in their own end and maintain possession, which really was not (and has not been over the past couple years) an easy task to accomplish.

These numbers together really make me wonder how much of an effect the high volume of breakaway and odd man rush attempts Hutchinson had to face had on his season totals. While he definitely has aspects of his game to improve, at this point in time I feel much more confident in him improving his numbers in the NHL next year than I do in Pavelec replicating this season's totals.

Goal Locations

Here we see where players had to go in order to score on each goalie.

As you would come to suspect, both goalies get beaten high more often than they do down low. It's like that all around the league. One thing I do want to point out is Pavelec's increased percentage when it comes to goals being scored on an open net. This is a direct result of him being out of position more often than Hutchinson is. Open net goals are usually scored off of rebounds or poor positioning, so it should come as no surprise that this occurs. It's been a pretty big problem for Pavs over his career and not something he has been able to address. The fact that Hutch was clearly able to reduce the rate at which he allowed that to happen to promising for his future as well.

Conclusion

I think we may have seen the single greatest season that Ondrej Pavelec may ever play. There will forever be hope that he did finally turn it around for good at the end of this season, but as a whole I believe we are still seeing too many of the same dangerous tendencies that have limited him in the past to consider this a full turn around. Whether it's the coaching he has received or just who he is as a goalie we will never really know.

As for Michael Hutchinson, I am slightly more optimistic that what we saw over the final two months of the year was more a bump in the road than a realization of who he really is. I don't think it is realistic to expect him to return to the golden form to start the season, but he is likely going to settle somewhere around or slightly above league average on his career.

At the end of the day, only time will tell how this goaltending situation will play out next year. With the likes of Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie growing to start challenging for increased ice time the competition is only going to get more intense, and Jets fans should be excited about that.