There have been whispers regarding Ondrej Pavelec of the New York Rangers getting his chance between the pipes again. However, it is safe to say that he was just as surprised as fans to be in the starting lineup against the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this week. With Henrik Lundqvist out with the flu, it meant a quick re-shuffle. Was opportunity knocking for Pavelec to show he still has something to bring to the ice?
Opportunity Knocking for Ondrej Pavelec
Pavelec, now at a milestone age of 30, signed a one-year contract with the Rangers to be their backup goalie. First drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets) in 2005, he plays a very unconventional style. Pavelec has good size at 6-feet-3-inches and 212-pounds, contrasting with his quick movement on the puck. His best season to date was 2014-15 with Winnipeg. He put up a personal best record of 22-16-8 and a .920 save percentage that year.
A Slippery Slope for Pavelec
Some may say he long ago passed his prime. Last season for Winnipeg he only played five games, as he spent most of the year in the AHL, and also suffered a serious knee injury. In those five games, he had a mere .880 save percentage. This season has not started much better. In seven appearances, Pavelec has a .899 save percentage. Playing behind the legendary Lundqvist has meant that Pavelec does not get a lot of opportunities. In his seven appearances, only five are starts. He also faces the tough task of following Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta as the Rangers second string. Both Talbot and Raanta were seen as top-notch back-ups and left New York for starting opportunities.
A comparison to Raanta, who went to Arizona Coyotes as part of the Derek Stepan trade, is not favourable. His first year with the Rangers, Raanta started 18 games and made 24 appearances. He earned a record of 11-6-2 in those games, with a .919 save percentage and a 2.25 goals-against-average. The following season was even better. Raanta started 26 games and had a record of 16-8-2. During this time, he had a .922 save percentage and a 2.26 goals-against-average. This poses the question, is Pavelec capable of providing this type of goaltending up when needed? So far, the stats have been underwhelming,
Is there still hope?
Pavelec played a solid game against the Penguins, helping the Rangers to a 4-3 overtime win. The Penguins have had his number over the years, as Pavelec is just 2-13-1 with a 4.20 goals-against-average against them in his career. Things were different on Tuesday, as he saved 41 out of 44 shots on goal that night, and even got a little help from the Pens.
o dear penguins ? pic.twitter.com/jUjFEqf77Z
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) December 6, 2017
“He didn’t have a lot of work in the first, but he did have quite a few shots after that,” Vigneault said. “He did give us a real strong game. I’m really happy for him. He’s put in a lot of work and I’m sure there will be a few more of those to come”
With Vigneault staying positive, Pavelec’s performance could be enough to justify his place in New York. It’s a waiting game to see if he can build off the performance. The evidence to date suggests that Pavelec’s career has not been altogether noteworthy. With Lundqvist now 35-years-old and playing his 13th career season, the Rangers need a dependable back up to give him the rest he needs. They will continue to hope that Pavelec can fill that role.
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