Ondrej Pavelec has been around long enough to know this as well as anyone: One moment a guy is the grand marshall at a parade, the next he’s been run out of town by an angry mob sporting torches and pointy sticks.

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This article was published 25/4/2015 (2374 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ondrej Pavelec has been around long enough to know this as well as anyone: One moment a guy is the grand marshall at a parade, the next he’s been run out of town by an angry mob sporting torches and pointy sticks.

Heck, he’s lived it during his days as the Winnipeg Jets No. 1 goaltender.

Still, the vibe surrounding the veteran Czech netminder is a lot different this spring than it was a year ago. Yes, questions will continue to hover over him and the fingers are always pointed at the goalie, fair or not, when his club is swept out of the playoffs.

But Pavelec is also coming off a year in which he posted career numbers in save percentage (.920), goals-against average (2.28) and shutouts (5) and played out of his skull in the final month of the season to help guide this team to the playoffs.

"I don’t know why that happened," said Pavelec when asked for an explanation as to why he caught fire. "It was a time that I wasn’t playing. It wasn’t a long stretch, three or four weeks that Hutch (Michael Hutchinson) is playing every game. That’s the way it goes. Things happen for a reason.

"I don’t know why. But I had a pretty good year. I had a pretty good start in the season. And a few things happened."

Yeah, you could say that. But if you want to trace his success this season back to any one turning point, it might not be as simple as his recovery from the long Barret Jackman goal he gave up in St. Louis in March, but the faith management showed in him this time last year.

It was back then when GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and Paul Maurice stood in front of a room of media and defended Pavelec’s play, despite a season in which his numbers had seriously regressed.

"Before they said that, I wasn’t sure what’s going to happen," Pavelec said. "It was great for me to know what they think right before I went home, right before the summer. There wasn’t any speculation in the summer. So I had time to work out. I didn’t have to think about anything else. That was huge for me that they said that."

It might not have shown early in the year when Michael Hutchinson started to see more action in the rotation and then essentially snatched the starting gig from him after some stellar play. But it was in March, after the Jackman goal, that Pavelec had reached what could be said was a career crossroads. If he had struggled, his days with the organization might have been in jeopardy, especially with prospect Connor Hellebuyck playing so well in St. John’s.

Instead he served up the best stretch of his career, that included a six-game win streak in mid-to-late March and three consecutive shutouts in the last week of the regular season.

Timing, as they say, is everything.

"It wasn’t an easy season for me, that’s for sure," Pavelec admitted. "Especially that stretch in February (when he wasn’t playing) and after the goal in St. Louis. I didn’t even know if I was going to have a chance to play again for this team. Never give up. Just work hard in practice and good things happen."

So while the vote of confidence for Pavelec a year ago raised some eyebrows and lit up the lines on sports-talk radio, this spring it barely moved the needle.

"We don’t think Ondrej has reached his capacity yet," said Cheveldayoff on Friday. "We still think there’s room for him to continue to grow. And we’re excited to have him as the No. 1 goalie in the organization.

"We’re really excited to have Hutch as a guy that can push and continue to do the things he’s done. It’s really remarkable what he’s accomplished as well. As a group, the strength together certainly helped us get to the point where we’re at. It’s not just about Ondrej being the No. 1 goalie. You really look back at part of the reason why we were able to accomplish what we were able to is that the strength that both of them had.

"So I’m real excited about the goaltending opportunities for us going forward."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait