Coach Wade Flaherty chats with Pavelec and Montoya at centre ice in the First Niagara Center on Tuesday morning. Picture Courtesy:

Winnipeg Jets' Goalie Situation Has Controversy Brewing

The Winnipeg Jets’ season is slowly slipping away, change is needed before the gap between them and the playoffs grows insurmountable .

Something has to give before the team can get away from the inconsistency that has plagued them throughout the 2013-14 season. One of the biggest debates in Jets’ camp is in the crease: Two starting goaltenders, but so far, one undisputed leader. Could a shakeup in-goal be the change the Jets need?

Ever since the Winnipeg Jets were reborn in 2011, they have been relying on Ondrej Pavelec to back-stop their team. The 2005 2nd-round draft pick has done well in the Jets’ first two seasons, making some spectacular saves, and keeping Winnipeg in the playoff picture until the bitter end. Although Pavelec only averaged a .905% and .906% save percentage in his two seasons, (both of which ranked outside the top 30 in the NHL), his mediocre numbers were blamed on the Jets’ defense, which allowed the 5th-most goals in 2011-12, and 7th-most in 2013.

Pavelec, like the Jets as a whole, has struggled with his consistency this season. Just a few short weeks ago, many thought the 26-year old was playing his best hockey of the season, and the Jets’ record started to reflect that, after going 4-2 on their longest road-trip of the year. Now, Pavelec has been pulled in his second-last appearance, and in his most recent showing, allowed four goals to a Buffalo Sabres team that had not scored that much in their previous 17 games. Losing to the NHL’s worst team must prompt a shakeup, and it would be surprising if Pavelec wasn’t on the bench for the Jets’ game against the Florida Panthers on Friday.

Pavelec has played huge minutes in his three seasons with Winnipeg, starting 68 of 82 games in 2011-12, and 44 of 48 in 2013, the most in the NHL that year. Pavelec has continued that as the mid-way point of the 2013-14 season approaches, playing in all but eight of the Jets’ 36 games so far this year. Given his stat line, it could be said that he is being over-used, and rest would be needed before the Czech native heads to the 2014 Winter Olympics, and returns after for the final stretch of the season.

The aforementioned bench has been Al Montoya‘s place of residence for much of the 2013-14 season, despite the Chicago native averaging better numbers than the Jets’ starter. Montoya’s .920% save percentage puts him in the upper echelon of NHL goaltenders, and is significantly higher than Pavelec’s mark of .908%. The Jets have had more success with Montoya in net, too: Winnipeg has a winning record, (5-2-1) when Montoya starts, compared to 10-14-4 with Pavelec.

Montoya has proved he can handle a heavier workload then what he has been given, as he played in over 30 games in one season with the New York Islanders. Montoya has put up career-high numbers in both Save Percentage and GAA (2.23), meaning this is a great time to give the 28-year old more responsibility in the net.


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