The Winnipeg Jets will have another crucial game on Friday night when they take to the ice in Vancouver, playing the Canucks. It will certainly be a battle of teams that have gone separate ways in the past month, with the Jets thriving under a new head coach, and the Canucks looking lost without theirs. Even though John Tortorella will be busy in his return tomorrow night, Paul Maurice still has some decisions to make at his end before puck drop.
Goaltender has been a controversial position for the team all season, but with things looking up for the Jets, stability has returned to the net. Despite that, Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya are still share the crease, and the goaltender on the ice during a particular game could make the difference between playoff contention and draft pick contention as the year comes to a close.
Usually, Pavelec would get the call in a situation such as the one the Jets are in, looking to gain any ground they can before the long Olympic stoppage that is now just over a week away. With the Canucks struggling to find themselves offensively, and Pavelec not having his best outing in the Jets’ loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, it makes for some interesting conversation.
Pavelec finished Tuesday’s 4-3 loss with 21 saves on 25 shots, equating to a save percentage of .840%. The 26-year old was out of position multiple times during the game, and he was spared a goal by a goaltender interference call while Predator Mike Fisher had a wide-open net. Fisher scored just 20 seconds later anyways, the Predator’s game-winner. Pavelec was also in goal when the Jets took on the Canucks in their only meeting thus far, making 23 saves on 25 shots in a nail-biting 2-1 loss.
Montoya, on the other hand, started the Jets’ second-last game, making a heroic 34-save effort as Winnipeg shocked the defending Stanley Cup Champions at home. The Blackhawks went on to beat the Canucks 5-2 on Wednesday night in Vancouver.
Pavelec would be back at the helm on Sunday when the Jets travel to face the Montreal Canadiens, and could be in-goal for all four games before the Olympic break (all on the road), including a huge divisional match-up against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, February 8th. The Jets’ second-last game before the break against the Washington Capitals, a team in a position very similar to Vancouver’s, is the only game forthcoming that Montoya would have a chance of starting.
Montoya, who is not going to the Olympics, needs some NHL action in-between now and then, or the Chicago native will have a serious case of rust when the NHL season resumes at the end of February. Pavelec, on the other hand, will represent the Czech Republic in Sochi, and he will need to be well-rested to minimize both fatigue, and chance of injury while at the tournament.
If Paul Maurice imported former head coach Claude Noel‘s goaltending schedule, and sticks to it, it is likely that we will see Pavelec get the green-light for the nationally televised game. However, starting Montoya should give the Jets an equal chance to win the game, and be better in the long-term for both goaltenders.
Stay tuned tomorrow afternoon for our game preview, as well as tweets before, during, and after the game on our Twitter account, @hkyattheforks.