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Know Thy Enemy: Winnipeg Goalies Preview

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Has the Jets goaltending matured with their team? After several years of below average play, competition has helped Winnipeg get their strongest season of performance north of the border between the pipes.

Pavelec has been side-eyed by many over his career, but had been very good this season.
Pavelec has been side-eyed by many over his career, but had been very good this season.
Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Aberration

ab-er-ra-tion (noun)

- The act of deviating from the ordinary, normal, or usual course.

For the second season in a row the Ducks begin the Stanley Cup playoffs facing a goalie from the Atlanta Thrashers goaltending tree. The now-Winnipeg Jets have not exactly been a franchise known for dominant netminders, with last year's round one roadblock Kari Lehtonen probably the best of the lot from a motley crew the likes of Johan HedbergPasi Nurminen, and Milan Hnilicka.

For better or worse, and mostly the latter, the goalie who has carried the banner for the team since relocation has been franchise all time games played leader Ondrej Pavelec. He of the .908 career save percentage; he of the 2.86 career goals against average; he of the $3.9 mil. cap hit deal with two more seasons remaining on it; he who lead the NHL in goals allowed for three straight seasons from 2011-12 to 13-14.

Yet now in his eighth season with the franchise and fifth as starter, the 27 year old is coming off his finest season. It's a reward for the patience of the club, spurred by competition with rookie Michael Hutchinson, but also leaves lingering questions. Is this season is an aberration, and can he keep it up in his first taste of the playoffs?

How did their season go?

Name

Record

Save Percentage

GAA

Pavelec 22-16-8 .920 2.28
Hutchinson (RC) 21-10-5 .914 2.39

This has been the best season of Pavelec's career, and he's gotten hot at the perfect time for the Jets. The first five months of the season were spent with a fairly even split in games played between the two goalies, with neither performing spectacular enough to fully wrest the mantle. Then on March 10 at St. Louis, Hutchinson allowed four goals on seven shots, leading to Pavelec coming off the bench for the final 27:57 to stop 19 of 20. Pavelec's play allowed the Jets to rally and tie the game, but he allowed a howler for the game winning goal just shy of the final minute.

Hutchinson would lose the next game at Florida, allowing Pavelec to seize the starters job by winning the next six games. Since the taking that loss in relief against the Blues, Pavelec has gone 9-2-1 with a .949 SV%, and perhaps even more impressively stopped shots at a .952 rate while shorthanded.

To give an idea of just how well he has performed since the turn of the calendar year, look at these charts comparing ten game rolling average SV% (calculated from the most recent ten games) in all situations. Stacking Pavelec against probable Vezina finalists Carey Price and Pekka Rinne, as well as another "hot goalie" in Devan Dubnyk:

The same surprising trend is true when looking at adjusted SV% numbers over the same span:

Breaking down his danger zone save percentages, he's stopped .972 low (10th amongst starters), .935 med (sixth) and .833 high for all game situations; in close score situations his low dips to .966, med falls to .920, while high rises to .856. Put simply, in the best season of his career, Pavelec is playing some of the best hockey of his career headed into his first playoff.

A former 2008 third round selection from the Barrie Colts by Boston, Hutchinson showed well in his first NHL season following signing with Winnipeg last year, but saw his play slide considerably as the season went along. After posting a .937 SV% in 15 games before the new year, it plummeted to .899 over his final 23 appearances in 2015. He started just three of the Jets final 16 games.

Stats vs. Ducks

Name

Record

Save Percentage

GAA

Pavelec 0-0-2 Season

1-1-3 Career

.882 Season

.900 Career

3.82 Season

2.98 Career

Hutchinson (RC) 0-1-0 Season .900 Season 3.07 Season

Despite Pavelec's quality play this season, Anaheim certainly hasn't seen much of it. That notwithstanding though both games went to overtime, which is as much a reflection of the quality of the team in front of him. Pavelec's one career win was the 40 save performance that broke the Ducks 22 game point streak last season, and he was in net for the famous rally from down 0-4 as well.

As with most opponents the Ducks have had success when getting to the front of the net, and this is of particular importance against the Jets as Pavelec has shown a proclivity to boot appetizing rebounds in all five of his appearances against Anaheim. He's a sizeable and athletic presence in goal at 6'3", but does have a tendency to get floppy and out of position when under sustained pressure. There's also the matter of the occasional bleeders conceded by not getting square and compact enough as well.

Hutchinson's one appearance was the lone regulation decision of the season, where the Ducks cruised aided by a shorthanded goal thanks to a puck handling gaffe by the lefty goalie.

Playoff Experience

This is the X-factor. As well as Pavelec has played down the stretch of this season, the last time he played postseason hockey was all the way back in 07-08 in the AHL. There he went 16-8 with a .921 SV% and 2.34 GAA to backstop the Chicago Wolves claiming the Calder Cup for the second time, improving on his regular season numbers of a .911 SV% and 2.77 GAA that had helped the team post the team post the second best record in the league.

Hutchinson has more recent AHL playoff experience, having lead the St. John's IceCaps to their first Eastern Conference Championship before bowing on in five games in the Calder Cup Final last season. His regular season numbers of a .923 SV% and 2.30 GAA improved to .938 and 1.95 in the postseason.

The playoffs are a wholly new experience for this version of the Jets, and so to will it be for their goalies.