More stop signs, fewer red lights

Biggest diff in Jets this year has been good goaltending

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It was hardly a revelation, or the type of item that commands huge headlines or lights up Twitter.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/02/2015 (2918 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

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It was hardly a revelation, or the type of item that commands huge headlines or lights up Twitter.

But there was Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice late Sunday gushing about the work of Ondrej Pavelec in a 5-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche and, in general, of the netminding he and rookie Michael Hutchinson have provided all season long.

That’s a storyline that has already been penned a couple of dozen times this winter.

Wayne Glowacki Winnipeg Free Press Goalies Michael Hutchinson (left) and Ondrej Pavelec both express support for coach Paul Maurice’s rotation, and their numbers bear that out.

Make that a couple of dozen, plus one, now.

Quite clearly, if the story summing up the 2014-15 Jets season was to be written right now, the turnaround from also-ran to playoff contender would begin with the team’s commitment to defence and the men guarding the blue paint.

The Jets, even with a recent chunk that saw them surrender 20 goals in four straight losses, entered action Monday night ranked 12th in goals against per game at 2.56. And that is particularly significant for a franchise that was in the bottom third in defence in the three previous years in Winnipeg (22nd last year, 25th and 26th in the two seasons previous).

“Other than five or six games, our goaltending has been that good all year long,” Maurice said. “Our goaltending has been a big part of things. For a stretch there we were in the top five and when you bang out 20 goals against in four games (in consecutive losses to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Dallas and Calgary) you drop into the middle pretty quick. We’ve got to claw our way back.

“Our last three games have given us that chance and our last three games we’ve gotten good goaltending by both goaltenders, and we will need that for sure.

“It’s not just us, right?” Maurice added. “You turn the TV on and on any given night those guys that are elite make the difference in games.”

Hutchinson has been a revelation this year, morphing from a player at the beginning of the season some thought might play, at most, 25 games, to a legitimate rookie-of-the-year candidate.

And it would seem the commitment to the defensive blueprint — and a lightened workload — has helped Pavelec’s game, too. The veteran Czech gave up three goals on 28 shots against the Avs, but was steady — particularly through the first 40 minutes.

“You know what? I just try to be ready for the game I’m playing,” Pavelec said Monday when asked of Maurice’s goalie rotation. “Coach decided to do the rotation and I think we’re fine with that. As long as it works for the team. My job is to be ready for my game and not worry about anything else.

“To put up good numbers, you need the team in front of you to play well defensively. Goalies around the league that put up great numbers, the teams in front of them play great defensively. That’s not a secret.

‘To put up good numbers you need the team in front of you to play well defensively’

— Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec

“We’ve done a really good job this year of playing defensively as a team. Everybody knows what to do now. Everybody knows the system and then it’s a matter of keeping things simple. All five guys on the ice know what to do in their zone and our zone. We’ve been really good at that.

“No team can make the playoffs without playing well defensively. All season long we’ve been really good defensively and look at where we are: We are in a playoff spot.

Now we have to keep going.”

Since mid-November there have been a couple of stretches where Maurice has opted to start Hutchinson three games in a row. But, by and large, the Jets boss seems content to keep both netminders engaged. And with good reason (see accompanying chart), for a bump in workload doesn’t necessarily mean juicier numbers.

“It’s been really good,” Hutchinson said. “It’s kept us both fresh throughout the season. The year can tend to turn into a bit of a grind, so with the rotation it gives you good practice time in between your starts. Sometimes when you are starting every single game you can’t go as hard in practice just because of the wear and tear on your body. This way we’re both fresh, get good practices in, so that we’re the best we can be when we do play.”

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

CREASE NUMBERS

Michael Hutchinson W-L-OTL GAA Sv PCT
This season: 14-7-3 2.24 .923
Career: 16-8-3 2.17 .926
In wins: 14-0 1.56 .944
In losses: 0-7-3 3.28 .894
@MTS Centre: 6-4-1 2.05 .927
1 day rest: 1-4-0 3.39 .890
2 days rest: 2-0-2 1.87 .939
3-plus days rest: 11-2-1 1.80 .936

 

 

 

‘Other than five or six games, our goaltending has been that good all year long’

— Jets coach Paul Maurice

 

 

 

 

 

Ondrej Pavelec W-L-OTL GAA Sv PCT
This season: 13-11-7 2.54 .911
Career: 126-136-42 2.92 .906
In wins: 13-0 1.50 .946
In losses: 0-11-7 3.26 .887
@MTS Centre: 7-6-3 2.78 .896
0 days rest: 0-0-1 3.55 .887
1 day rest: 5-2-2 1.81 .935
2 days rest: 3-3-1 2.67 .905
3-plus days rest: 4-6-3 2.88 .900

–Tait

History

Updated on Tuesday, February 10, 2015 5:28 AM CST: Replaces photo

Updated on Tuesday, February 10, 2015 7:42 AM CST: Adds table

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