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Pavelec brings 'A' game

Jets goalie driving club's recent success

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It is a regular, almost daily scene in the Winnipeg Jets dressing room. The media corps gathers around Ondrej Pavelec and peppers him with question after question, most of which he deftly kicks aside like a soft floater from the blue-line.

A sampling:


Q: Can you play all three games over the next four nights?

A: "It's always the coach's decision as to who is going to be in the net. I'm going to be ready whenever they tell me. It's pretty much up to him. I'm good. I was resting for a couple months (during the lockout). This is exactly what we want -- to play hockey. It's a tough schedule, it's tough to handle it, but I'm ready to go. It's my job. Players can do it so I don't see any reason why the goalies can't do it."

Q: How closely are you monitoring the standings?

A: "We know. Everybody knows. You look at the standings and it's pretty tight. Every game is huge. This week is going to be huge for us as well: Two games against Washington and one against Tampa. It's going to be division games and we need those points, there's no question. Everybody wants to make the playoffs. Coaches, players, ownership... it's a goal for us this year and we're going to do everything we can to make it. It's in our hands. If we're going to play the way we want to play, I think it's going to be fine."

Decent stuff, but nothing that is going to be the lead story on a late-night sportcast, be pinned up on a bulletin board or fed to the Twitterverse ASAP.

But it's when the media scrum starts to filter away and Pavelec is asked a very basic question -- is this current stretch of work the best of his career? -- that the 25-year-old Czech offers up both a sense of just how much he is living in the moment and how finite he believes the line is between stardom and criticism.

"I feel good in the net right now," Pavelec said. "I've felt good pretty much the whole season, it's just sometimes it goes a different way. If the guys didn't score those two goals last night (in rallying to beat Boston) we wouldn't win. So then we would be here talking about different things today.

"I'm happy I can play. I'm happy we're kind of winning right now. We have to keep going."

In a nutshell, how the Jets and Pavelec will be evaluated this season are intertwined. This franchise has made just one post-season appearance in 12 seasons and, just to further hammer home the point, has never won a single Stanley Cup playoff game. And if Pavelec can help lead his team into the post-season this spring, the perception of him as an inconsistent underachiever, much like the rest of the squad, changes.

But that's a big-picture take when everything Pavelec focuses on is tonight vs. the Washington Capitals.

Mind you, if Pavelec won't think beyond the next puck drop his teammates are more than willing to take up his cause. An example: Captain Andrew Ladd and Zach Bogosian were asked Wednesday if the netminder continues to be dominant, would he warrant some discussion for the Hart Trophy.

"That's a tough category to come out on top off," said Ladd, "but he's probably our most valuable player. For us, he's a guy that gives us a chance to win each and every night."

"I'm pretty biased, he's my goaltender," added Bogosian. "But he's been playing great hockey. He brings it every night and he's shown over the last few years that he can play at a top level for a long time. This is my fifth year playing with him and he's gotten better and better every year. His potential is through the roof. When he's on, he's really on." Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Pavelec's season by the numbers


Six juicy stats to consider when discussing Ondrej Pavelec's 2013 campaign:


Pavelec's save percentage in the 13 wins he has led the Jets to is a sparkling .932. Only twice this season -- last Saturday in the 5-4 shootout win over Toronto and in a 3-2 OT win over Florida on Feb. 5 -- has his save percentage been under .900 while guiding the Jets to a victory.

In the 12 games in which Pavelec was handed the loss, his save percentage is .868.

His current 2.73 goals-against average matches exactly his career best, set in 2010-11 with Atlanta.

Heading into Wednesday night's action, Pavelec's 13 wins were tied for the fourth-most in the NHL.

Only Buffalo's Ryan Miller has faced more shots than Pavelec to date this season (814-758).

Strange, but true: As good as Pavelec has been this season, Al Montoya has better numbers -- a 2.33 GAA, .909 save percentage (to .906) -- and has posted the team's only shutout.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2013 D2

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