Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pavelec's actual worth far outstrips his numbers

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THE man responsible for one of the more memorable moments this season had no interest in looking back.

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec's 50-save performance in Tuesday's night overtime loss was still on the mind of most hanging around the MTS Centre Wednesday morning, and why not? He almost single-handedly won the game for Winnipeg, turning aside waves and waves of Philadelphia pressure until they finally broke through with just seconds left on the clock in regulation time.

A sombre Pavelec wasn't too keen on discussing his play or where he would rank that outing in his personal Top 10 list in front of reporters Wednesday. He talked quietly and carefully, quickly adjusting any spotlight away from himself and onto the group that plays in front of him.

"It's a team sport; it's about the win," he said. "It doesn't matter how you feel or how I feel, end of the day it's about the two points. It doesn't matter how I play. I was really disappointed that we didn't get the win."

While Pavelec tried to deflect attention to the corners and cover up any feelings of self-satisfaction, others had no problem heaping praise on the goaltender after Tuesday's effort.

Jets captain Andrew Ladd: "We've seen it the last two years how well he can play and how he can have a great impact on the outcome of games. It's kind of like (Miikka) Kiprusoff in Calgary: You just feel confident having him back there. If you make a mistake, you know he's going to bail you out."

Chris Mason has shared a crease with Pavelec for two seasons: "Every year he's going to get better and it helps when our team is getting better, as well," he said. "He's really establishing himself as one of the top goaltenders in the league."

Heading into Wednesday's action, the 24-year-old had 22 wins (tied for 13th); a 2.77 GAA (32nd); and a .911 save percentage (28th). Those league-wide standings come with all netminders playing a minimum of 20 games. At first look, this measurement against the rest of the NHL is middle of the road at best.

But what doesn't get factored into the equation is the total value brought to the club. Think Winnipeg (29-26-7, 65 points) would be in the position it's currently in -- right in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff bingo -- without the play of the young Czech goaltender?

Think again.

"He's really mature for his age," Mason added. "He cares a lot about winning and losing. At the same time, he doesn't get rattled if he has an off-night or if the team doesn't play well in front of him."

The Jets had an optional skate Wednesday, with only a handful of players participating. Winnipeg hosts Tampa Bay tonight.

MAX POWER: The Jets have scored five straight power-play goals over the last two games, an output that places them fourth in the NHL home power-play rankings (23.1 per cent, five percentage points better than their overall mark). This bump comes after the club went on a miserable 2-for-32 stretch with the man advantage.

"We're getting pucks to the net," Ladd said on what the difference has been of late. "It seems like we have a lot more control in their end, so it's been really good to get that going. It's going to be really important down the stretch to have that clicking."

Winnipeg's penalty kill at home is ranked 11th in the league, running at 84.6 per cent.

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 23, 2012 C2

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