Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Goalies keeping it clean

Pavelec, Montoya waging civilized battle for supremacy

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It would be a juicier story if Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya absolutely hated each other's guts and, just for some visual effect, there was some sort of barbed-wire barrier separating their lockers in the Winnipeg Jets' dressing room.

But truth is -- and apologies to all those who love a good in-house feud -- the two Jets puckstoppers get along just fine. And it's not just a phoney front thrown up whenever a throng of media gathers around their corner of the room, but a genuine respect.

Two snippets from Monday's post-practice session as evidence:

Montoya: "I have admired Pavs' game for a long time, especially playing against him in the minors. Just seeing the way he's battled, seeing him at the World Championships... I take a lot of things from his book and at the same time I hope he feeds a little bit off of me. It's a good partnership."

Pavelec: "We talk about hockey, we talk about other goalies... it's great to talk about the goalie stuff."

And so, yes, while there may be a bubbling goaltender debate now brewing in this town, the two central figures aren't about to stir the pot at all. Both men want the work, of course. But both are also driven by two different realities.

Pavelec is trying to repay the club's faith in him after signing a five-year, $19.5 million deal last summer.

Montoya, a former first-round draft pick who turns 28 on Wednesday, signed a one-year deal worth $601,000 and is trying to prove that he can carry a team.

And so if you were searching for some sort of deeper meaning in Montoya's reaction after shutting out the Ottawa Senators on Saturday -- he thrust his hands in the air and looked to the heavens -- he wasn't buying in at all.

Oh, Montoya called the shutout -- his first since blanking Los Angeles as a member of the New York Islanders almost two years ago -- a "lot of fun." But more important was knowing he had won over some of the men in the room.

"I'm trying to earn the trust of my teammates every single day," said Montoya. "I haven't been in the net much but, at the same time, it's (giving) them whatever they need, giving them that better effort in practice.

"Every day you want to come in here and earn your spot. I never want to have the feeling of comfort. I always feel like I'm pushing or I've got somewhere to go. That's the way I play my game."

So far the results have been good, even if he sports a sub-.900 save percentage. Montoya is 2-0 but his second win, the victory over the Sens, was considerably better than the first.

At the same time, Pavelec's numbers and his game seem to be going in the other direction -- hence the root of the goaltender debate. In starting the season 3-1-1, Pavelec posted a save percentage of .932. Since then, he is 1-4 with a save percentage of .821.

And now, on top of all that, he is coming off a bout of flu.

"My game is not there, not where I want it to be. We're working on it," Pavelec said. "We don't have (many) practices, so any time you get practice you have to take advantage of it and stay on the ice and work on all the little details and get better."

Another underlying factor here that shouldn't be overlooked: When the Jets signed Montoya this summer one of the basics of the scouting report was that he was not only a good teammate, but also the kind of goaltender who would practise hard and continually attempt to fine-tune his game.

One pushes the other. Both respect the other. And that is the basis of any solid goaltender relationship.

"We played against each other a little bit, but I didn't really know him as a person, I just knew him as a goalie," said Pavelec. "He's a good goalie. He's showed it in those two games he played and he showed it last year. He's a pretty good guy.

"The last couple of years I always had a great relationship with the other goalie. This year it's the same thing. We just try to help each other and support each other and it doesn't matter who's in the net, it's about the two points at the end of the day."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Tale of the tape

PavelecMontoya

3-5-1Won-Lost-Tied2-0-0

512:12Minutes157:15

3.28Goals-Against Average2.68

.885Save Percentage.899

0Shutouts1

73-84-26Career W-L-T23-17-10

3.00Career GAA2.75

.906Career Sv %.906

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 12, 2013 C3

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