The Jets were struggling. The goaltending tandem of Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson couldn’t be consistent enough to go on a sustained winning streak. After a while the Jets didn’t even look confident enough in net to make anyone feel like the playoffs were in their future. Then after frustration set in, they called up Ondrej Pavelec. The Jets are now 2-0 since Pavelec returned, but is he the answer?
In defense of Hellebuyck and Hutchinson, there were some games the team didn’t do their part in front of either netminder. Hellebuyck is considered to be the Jets goaltender of the future, so it was a bit of a surprise when Pavelec was sent down and the future had to be now. They pushed Hellebuyck too soon, he had great numbers in college and was steady in his year in the AHL. Last season was a good year for Hellebuyck’s development. This season the Jets have been pushing Hellebuyck to be the starter. Most number one goalies don’t start performing at their best until the age of 27. Connor Hellebuyck is only 23 years old, and before this season he only had 26 NHL games under his belt. Hellebuyck’s numbers through 34 games this year are down from last season. He hasn’t really proven that he can take the Jets to the playoffs, at least not this year.
Hutchinson meanwhile came into the season at 26 years old and 71 games of experience. Now that is closer to the 27 year old mark, but then you look at the games he has played. Hutchinson’s numbers are horrible this season. In his 20 games, he’s 4-10-3 with a 3.23 goals against average and a .894 save percentage. Now those aren’t great numbers, and do not support Hutchinson as your starter. He hasn’t had the best of luck either in net, and a lot of his losses came when the team in front of him under-performed. The Jets came into this season with both of their goalies having a combined 97 games experience, while Pavelec, who was sent down, had 371 games experience.
Pavelec hasn’t been the best goalie the Jets have had, but he’s experienced. Through most of his time with the Jets he’s taken nothing but criticism. The fact is that his experience might be what helps take the Jets in to the playoffs. It was Pavelec who got hot right at the perfect time, which elevated the Jets to their first post season in 2015. Pavelec hasn’t been stellar in the AHL this season. He left the league with a 2.78 goals against average and .917 save percentage. The Jets should get a boost with the fact that Pavelec is an unrestricted free agent this summer, which means if he wants a contract with an NHL team, he best perform. Add that to the fact that a veteran goalie like Pavelec would want to show the Jets brass what they were missing when they sent him down.
We have seen what Hellebuyck and Hutchinson could do for the Jets. It’s time now to let Pavelec have a turn, and see what he can do to get the Jets on a run. We have only seen glimpses of good things from Hellebuyck and even Hutchinson, but neither goalie give the Jets much of a chance at making the post season. His experience and drive to impress should fuel the Jets though their final games and hopefully into the playoffs. Whether the Jets make or miss the playoffs, we can’t help but wonder what it would have been if the Jets had an experienced Pavelec as the starter, instead of two goalies whose combined total career games aren’t even a quarter of what Pavelec has played. Is Pavelec the answer? If given the chance, time will tell.