Pavelec thwarting opening onslaughts

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Perhaps more important than Ondrej Pavelec’s overall play so far this season has been his play early in games for the Winnipeg Jets.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/10/2015 (2602 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Perhaps more important than Ondrej Pavelec’s overall play so far this season has been his play early in games for the Winnipeg Jets.

Pavelec has faced 41 of his 94 shots — 14, 16 and 11 respectively over his three starts — in the first frame, and has allowed just three goals despite the pelting.

After another first period of 10-plus shots Friday night, Pavelec’s post-game answer for his stellar play was he has no choice but to stop the puck.

JOHN WOODS / The Canadian Press Calgary Flames' Mason Raymond, left, (21) leaps over Winnipeg Jets' Tyler Myers (57) as goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (31) saves his shot.

“It’s about how you focus for every shot, every minute,” the Czech-born netminder said.

Pavelec has continued his fine form from the tail end of last season, when he posted three straight shutouts and bumped his save percentage to a career-high .920 to cap his best season as an NHL goaltender.

Through his first three starts, in which he is 2-1, Pavelec is clipping along at a .936 save percentage. His resurgence hasn’t waned one iota.

“He’s been really important for us early in games,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. “That’s a really tough night for him. He saw a long stretch with not a lot of work. They still got their three or four really good chances to score, as did we, but that’s tough sometimes. The pressure starts to shift on a guy who hasn’t seen a lot of pucks.”

Meanwhile, Blake Wheeler put in another strong performance, picking up a goal and an assist to lift his point total to seven in five games.

Wheeler’s torrid start to the season has him sitting pretty in second place on the NHL’s scoring list, one point shy of Detroit Red Wing Henrik Zetterberg’s eight. While Wheeler wasn’t available to speak with the media — the forward left the game briefly in the third period with an apparent cut on his wrist, only to return and pot the empty-netter —Maurice was willing to shed some light on his player’s formula for success so far.

“I think it’s just work ethic,” he said. “I mean, he looks like he’s just going harder than everybody else on the ice. He’s had some games where I don’t think he was overly excited about how it was going for him and he still ended up with a point or two.”

Maurice said having scoring up and down his four lines has allowed Wheeler a little more breathing room in the offensive zone.

“I think the times on the road, having Scheifele’s line being dangerous as well, has sometimes pulled the assignment off of him,” he said. “That’s sometimes the concern about running (Bryan) Little, (Andrew) Ladd and Wheeler together. Last year we were easy to check when that happened. Having other lines that can produce some offence is better for us and better for him.”

scott.billeck@freepress.mb.ca

 

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