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Wrinkle in the crease

Montoya's shutout gives Jets options, decisions on starting netminder

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OTTAWA -- You'd be tempted to say the instantaneous, unfiltered thing that pops into the mind in this era of now, now and sooner than now.

Which is, the Winnipeg Jets have a goaltending controversy on their hands.


Such a snap judgement, however, is off the mark, though it could be a natural reaction after Al Montoya went into the net for the Winnipeg Jets and delivered a solid, stable and winning performance Saturday afternoon at Scotiabank Place.

Montoya pitched a 33-save, 1-0 shutout for his third career goose-egg, inspiring a confidence in his Jets' teammates that's been fairly lacking throughout much of this 2013 season.

Ondrej Pavelec's backup has played two games. He's won them both.

Next time, could it be less than two weeks between starts for Montoya?

"I haven't given it too much thought about where we're going to go with the goalies as far as that goes," Jets coach Claude Noel said after the game. "I'm just trying to enjoy the win right now.

"But I thought he played well, thought he was very focused. Thought he looked big in the net and I thought he looked like he was having a good time.

"He was probably a little bit nervous, especially at the end when it was bouncing around but he certainly has gained my confidence."

All of that stands in contrast to remarks made about Pavelec on Friday, when it became clear Montoya was going to get this start because the Jets' No.1 keeper was felled by the flu.

Pavelec so far this season has looked at times small in his net. Fun? Hard to say if he's having any.

And gained the coach's confidence? Not so much so far.

Those are the products of a 3-5-1 record, a 3.28 goals against average and a .885 save percentage.

But if Saturday was the real Montoya, it may not qualify as a controversy but the decisions could be a little more complicated for Noel and his staff as the season wears on.

Pavelec's the clear No. 1. He had his superb stretches last season, but clearly ran out of gas in the second half when there is little question he was overplayed.

There is even more temptation this season to simply ride him, given the feeling that the 48-game season provides little, if any room for error.

But that's going to be increasingly difficult if those numbers don't improve.

Saturday, after being the Jets' backbone, Montoya was preaching only the team approach.

"For me, (Pavelec) has done such a great job for this team and this organization," Montoya said. "I understand the position and I understand what I have to do. It's just about being ready every night."

So he got ready by being in tune with his good points and his bad from a 5-4 win over the Islanders two weeks ago.

"I think I'm going to be very happy with what I'll see tonight," he said about the second review, which would be part of his Saturday evening trip home to Winnipeg. "(Jets goalie coach) Wade Flaherty has really helped me fine tune my game. That's what it's about."

Montoya sounds pretty comfortable in his own skin, a pretty calm and collected attitude for a team that honestly looked and sounded a bit panicky -- line changes, short answers, etc. -- after Thursday's loss and around its Friday practice.

"For not playing for six, seven months .... it's about doing the little details that made me an NHLer, just playing to my strengths," Montoya said. "I took that side of it -- it's about relaxing. Every single day I know what I'm capable of doing and it's all about just going out there and having fun, as cliché as it sounds, and letting that puck come to you."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 10, 2013 B2

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