Five story lines
Hey Pavs, what exactly are you doing differently?
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/03/2015 (2994 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
1. A scene that keeps replaying over and over again recently: A media throng gathers around Ondrej Pavelec in the Winnipeg Jets dressing room seeking some revelation as to his stellar play of late. After all, he’s gone from being glued to the end of the bench to banging out four straight victories, posting a .966 save percentage and .98 goals against average, all the while being hailed as a cornerstone in the push for a playoff spot.
So what gives, Mr, Pavelec? Perhaps it’s an ever so subtle change in technique after working with goaltending coach Wade Flaherty? A change in diet? New contacts? Massage therapy or acupuncture? A visit to the Dalai Lama?
Pavelec — as has been the case throughout most of his days in Winnipeg — just shrugs at all this stuff, completing almost every answer with his trademark “tomorrow is another day” refrain.
Now, no doubt there are some concrete factors at play in his turnaround, such as shots allowed by the Jets during the last four games (averaging 29.25), shots blocked (20.5 average, including 26 against Washington on Saturday) and the quality of scoring chances. Luck, like the three or four posts the Capitals hit, also plays a role, as does confidence.
But it’s hard not to conclude Pavelec might not have also been driven by all his inactivity leading up to being handed the No. 1 gig again. Not only did Michael Hutchinson snatch the starting chores away from him before this run, there has been a lot of chatter this winter about the Grade-A goaltender prospects in the organization, led by Connor Hellebuyck in St. John’s.
This is what competition is supposed to bring out in an athlete and for years Pavelec never really had to look over his shoulder, with journeyman Chris Mason his backup in Year One and Al Montoya the next two seasons. Now he does, and both he and the Jets might be better for it.
2. ASKED both Drew Stafford and Blake Wheeler after the win Saturday to explain some of the chemistry their line has percolating and both pointed at the same component: The skill and rocketing confidence level of Mark Scheifele.
Wheeler and Scheifele have had this going since last season, but Stafford has found a place on his opposite wing, the left side. A veteran of 579 NHL games — 563 with the Buffalo Sabres — he has been reinvigorated with the Jets and has earned every second of his Top 6 minutes.
“Honestly, this is one of the better lines I’ve ever played on,” said Stafford. “To play with a centreman like Mark here, he’s one of the best young centres in the league in my opinion and he’s got a long career ahead of him. He’s a heckuva player. And Blake on the other side… I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity and trying to make the best out of it.
“So far, so good.”
No kidding. During the four-game win streak the trio has 16 points (Stafford: 2G, 4A; Scheifele: 2G, 3A; Wheeler: 3G, 2A) and has been solid in both ends.
3. THE work of Stafford on the left flank of Scheifele and Wheeler has many wondering where Mathieu Perreault fits in when he returns to the lineup, likely sometime before the end of the regular season. Perreault was flourishing in the exact same spot before he was injured on Feb. 16, but Jets coach Paul Maurice won’t mess with a good thing and bust up what that line has going now.
Playing the what-if game, if healthy the Jets forward lines in a couple of weeks might look like this:
- Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Michael Frolik
- Drew Stafford-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler
- Mathieu Perreault-Adam Lowry-Lee Stempniak
- Jiri Tlusty-Jim Slater-Matt Halischuk
Tlusty is by no means a lock for active duty, especially if the Jets make the playoffs and need a more-physical player such as Chris Thorburn or Anthony Peluso patrolling the wing. Eric O’Dell is also a versatile option, as he can play both wing and centre and has given the Jets decent minutes since his call-up from St. John’s
In any case, if healthy — “if” being the key word here — that could be as deep a forward crew as the Jets have iced since the franchise’s rebirth.
4. More on the depth discussion…
Does head coach Paul Maurice reunite Dustin Byfuglien and Ben Chiarot when that pair is finally healthy again?
Combine that duo with Toby Enstrom and Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba with Mark Stuart and the Jets have a solid D corps if they are playing hockey beyond April 11. It also leaves Jay Harrison and Adam Pardy on the outside looking in, even though they have been effective in the last few games working together.
5. FINALLY, the Jets’ win over Washington Saturday gave them 86 points this season, more than any of their three previous years in Winnipeg (the team had 84 points in its two full campaigns here and 51 during the lockout-shortened season.
That represents progress in the franchise’s growth — the Thrashers had 97 in 2006-07, their lone playoff year and 90 the year before that) — but the subject never even came up in any of the post-game interviews late Saturday.
The number, after all, will mean diddly and squat unless it comes with an invitation to the Stanley Cup tourney.
The Jets have 30 ROW (regulation-plus-overtime) wins, lowest among the 16 teams in a playoff position prior to Sunday’s action. This is significant because it is the NHL’s first tiebreaker in the event two teams finish with the same point totals at the end of the regular season.
Some of the teams chasing the Jets, notably L.A. (32), San Jose (32) and Dallas (31) have more ROW, as do the Flames (35), Canucks (37) and Wild (37).
DID YOU KNOW?
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the five shutouts across the NHL on Saturday were the most in one day since March 30, 2013, when there also were five clean sheets (in 11 games). Only one goaltender posted a shutout on both of those days — Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, who blanked the San Jose Sharks on Saturday and the New York Rangers two years ago.
4: Ondrej Pavelec’s current win streak, his longest run since Jan. 13-21, 2014 when he backstopped the Jets to wins over Phoenix, Calgary, Edmonton and Anaheim.
13: Mark Scheifele’s goal total this year, matching his number from last season. Interestingly, of his 26 goals over the past two seasons, 21 have come from December on and just five in the months of October and November.
59: Number of games between Mark Stuart’s goals this season. He scored Oct. 9 in Arizona before potting his second against the Caps Saturday night.
0: Washington’s Alex Ovechkin was held off the scoresheet Saturday for the first time in 10 meetings with the Jets. The Caps captain had recorded points in the previous nine meetings dating back to March 23, 2012 and hadn’t been held off the scoresheet since March 16, 2012.
Team: Michigan Tech Huskies (WCHA)
Height: 6-3. WEIGHT: 175
Born: March 24, 1993 in Chateauguay, Que. (lists Caledonia, Ont. as his hometown).
Drafted: By the Jets in the seventh round (190th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft.
Notable: Named last week as one of the five finalists for the 2015 Mike Richter Award as the top goaltender in the NCAA… The inaugural Richter Award was one by another Jets’ prospect last season, Connor Hellebuyck… Phillips led his conference in wins (27), goals-against average (1.61), save percentage (.938) and shutouts (6). Overall, he is 27-7-2, ranking him first in the NCAA in wins… Phillips has posted a .930 or better save percentage in 22 games this season and is 9-5-2 in one-goal games on the year… A junior at Michigan Tech, he is an exercise science major.
JETS THIS WEEK
Three games, two on the road, one at home: Today at Edmonton (8:30 p.m.); Tuesday at Vancouver (9 p.m.); Thursday vs. Montreal (7 p.m.)
Remaining: 10: Home 5; Road 5.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @WFPEdTait
Updated on Monday, March 23, 2015 9:05 AM CDT: Adds missing text, replaces photo
Updated on Monday, March 23, 2015 1:17 PM CDT: Adds more missing text