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Opinion

Pavelec's perfection pushes team closer to playoffs

Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise (11) reaches for the puck in front of Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec (31) as  Jets centre Mark Scheifele, rear left, defends during the third period. The Jets won 2-0.

ANN HEISENFELT / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise (11) reaches for the puck in front of Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec (31) as Jets centre Mark Scheifele, rear left, defends during the third period. The Jets won 2-0.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/4/2015 (1017 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ondrej Pavelec put the Winnipeg Jets back into the playoffs last night and now he must keep them there.

Pavelec’s game was unassailable. No leaks and no imperfections as he stopped 32 of 32 to lead his team to a 2-0 win over the Minnesota Wild.

The Jets now have 94 points with three games to go on the regular season schedule. Winnipeg can now earn a playoff berth with two more wins if the second is of the regulation variety on Saturday against the Calgary Flames.

That’s Pavelec’s mandate now - win two more games and put his team into the playoffs.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/4/2015 (1017 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ondrej Pavelec put the Winnipeg Jets back into the playoffs last night and now he must keep them there.

Pavelec’s game was unassailable. No leaks and no imperfections as he stopped 32 of 32 to lead his team to a 2-0 win over the Minnesota Wild.

The Jets now have 94 points with three games to go on the regular season schedule. Winnipeg can now earn a playoff berth with two more wins if the second is of the regulation variety on Saturday against the Calgary Flames.

That’s Pavelec’s mandate now - win two more games and put his team into the playoffs.

Pavelec has won eight of his last 10 starts and paced his team to eight wins in their last 11 starts to keep them in the playoff picture. He's now put them in a position to control their fate.

If Pavelec hadn’t found his game and gone on this tear, the Jets wouldn’t be in this spot, let it be known. Rookie Michael Hutchinson did lots of the heavy lifting during the middle chunk of the Jets schedule but when he faltered, Pavelec stepped out of the noose that had come to encircle him and his career and he lived, as the Tim McGraw song says, like he was dying.

The 27-year-old had seen his once promising career drift into an abyss of failed potential, sneering call-in show rants and smug media attacks.

Pavelec seemingly had no allies but for his teammates. Winnipeg wanted rid of him and couldn’t believe GM Kevin Cheveldayoff hadn’t exercised a compliance buyout last summer when he had the chance.

Pavelec was a millstone the Jets were stuck with and getting rid of him seemed near impossible. Who would trade for a $4-million backup? Every win for Hutchinson was a reminder of Pavelec’s shortcomings.

Google Ondrej Pavelec and the first four stories that come up are about what a mistake his contract was and how he was holding the Jets back from becoming a playoff team.

Except now, with the Jets closer to the playoffs than they have been since returning to Winnipeg and playing in the post-season tournament, Pavelec has been a catalyst. The overall numbers this season, a record of 21-16-7 and a .917 save percentage to go with a 2.39 goals-against average, are the best of his career.

The Jets have been better defensively all season, and that’s helped, but right now it’s about Pavelec as much as anything else. He’s had a number of games down this stretch where he’s been his team’s best player and that was certainly the case against the Wild on Monday.

The Jets pushed their way into a 2-0 lead through two periods but then spent most of the third in their own zone, forcing Pavelec to save not only the puck but the season.

That’s not hyperbole. A loss to the Wild would have put Winnipeg on a very thin ledge with a Portage and Main gust tearing at the team’s balance. Teetering would have become the verb du jour for the Jets. Instead, thanks largely to Pavelec’s perfection, the Jets are 120 minutes of winning hockey away from qualifying for the Stanley Cup tournament.

Pavelec may not be Mr. Right. But with his play down the stretch, he’s become Mr. Right Now.

Pavelec played his way into the hole he found himself in last summer and stretching throughout the middle of this season. But it can also be said he’s played his way out. Well, almost.

He still has to finish this job. Redemption is a funny thing and in Winnipeg, for Pavelec at least, close won’t be good enough.

To get out of hell, he needs to get the Jets to hockey heaven.

 

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

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History

Updated on Monday, April 6, 2015 at 11:23 PM CDT: Clarifies second regulation win needed against Calgary Flames Saturday.

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