The Winnipeg Jets have been rolling with the three-headed-monster setup for their goaltenders, having all three of Ondrej Pavelec, Michael Hutchinson, and Connor Hellebuyck.
The arguments some made for pulling up Pavelec included giving Hutchinson and Hellebuyck rest while trying to give the team time to recover their defensive game. Some believed the skaters morale fell and would bounce back with Pavelec, and even used the first two games as evidence of such.
What do the numbers suggest?
There is no doubt the Jets have scored more with Pavelec in net. The team has scored 4.08 goals per hour with Pavelec on the ice, over double the 1.92 Hutchinson has seen and far greater than the 2.85 for Hellebuyck.
In such a small sample, this could be thought as merely shooting percentage variation. Evidence supports that claim, with the Jets scoring on 12.6 per cent of shots with Pavelec on the ice, compared to the 9.4 and 7.9 Hellebuyck and Hutchinson have experienced respectively. For context, the Jets scored on 8.8 per cent of shots the previous three seasons, slightly below the 8.9 league median.
The team genuinely generated more shots, unblocked shots, and shots on net with Pavelec on the ice, but the shooting percentage with Pavelec cannot be expected to sustain for long periods of time. The team has created more offense but goals over exaggerate the true performance level improvement.
What about defense?
Goal rates have been increased by a factor of 10 for visual ease and also place goals in similar significant figure realm of shot metrics.
When we look at the defensive we see that things are not as stable. Pavelec still saw the team perform better in all shots and unblocked shots, but not with shots on net nor goals against.
What the numbers do not explain is why that may be. The team could be a bit more porous and not blocking shots they normally would. This could be a result of Pavelec’s poor rebound control often cited by experts. It could also be due to the rarely discussed but real ability for some goalies to force shooters to miss more often by covering more net. It also could just be small sample variance.
Of course, the truth is that variance plays a major role in all of these.
The team has done slightly better with Pavelec in net. How much is just luck, how much is confidence, and how much is just the ups and downs of hockey players being human is debatable.
I for one do not believe it to be confidence driven, however, since Pavelec both in career and this season has been no better than Hutchinson, and inferior to Hellebuyck.