SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Much of the media attention surrounding the Winnipeg Jets right now is, quite rightly, focused on the fact this team is undefeated in their last four games since head coach Paul Maurice took over Jan. 12 behind the Jets bench.
But you know who else is undefeated in that same period? Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who is the only goalie to whom Maurice has given the starting nod since taking over from Claude Noel and who has rewarded his coach's faith in him with some of his best play this season.
- In his last four games between the pipes, Pavelec has turned away 98 of 105 shots for a .933 save percentage, including a performance for the ages in a 3-2 win in Anaheim Tuesday night in which he turned back 40 of 42 shots.
So how is it that a goaltender who has struggled mightily at times this season -- and who was in a dogfight with backup Al Montoya for the No. 1 job when Maurice took over -- suddenly a whole new man?
The confidence is back, said Pavelec. And not just for him.
"The whole team is playing with confidence, I think," he said. "The new coach let us know we are good players and we can beat everybody... We know we can beat everybody -- and that's good. But there's a lot of work in front of us. We have to keep going."
Pavelec was nothing short of sensational in a win over Anaheim that represented the first regulation loss for the Ducks at home this season.
Critics of the Jets quickly took to Twitter after the win in Anaheim to point out the Jets were badly outplayed and the win was only the result of Pavelec's epic performance, as though that somehow diminished the accomplishment of beating the best team in the NHL.
Maurice was having none of it.
"What I liked was there were parts of the game -- and a lot of it was played in our end -- where we were right," he said. "The willingness was there, the character stuff -- we had 36 blocked shots. A big penalty kill at the end. Holding a lead when it goes from 3-1 to 3-2 (in the third period).
"And yes, our goaltender was a big part of that. And we're going to pay him. He's on our team."
Indeed, he is. And with the full confidence of his new head coach, it would appear Pavelec is as big a part of this Jets team right now as he's ever been.
If there was any doubt remaining about who is the No. 1 goalie on this Jets team -- Montoya, remember, played five of six games for the Jets in late December and early January -- Pavelec would seem to have laid it to rest.
But in a line of work where you're only as good as your last 60 minutes, a sweat-soaked Pavelec was already looking forward while he packed his gear in the Jets dressing room in Anaheim Tuesday night.
"It's great we got two points but now we go into San Jose and it's another tough team and another tough building to play in," he said.
"Overall, we feel pretty good about the win... but we have to keep going. We're in a battle. We need every win. But good effort, I think."
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