Ondrej Pavelec lives in the moment.
He must, he’s a goaltender after all.
There is much to look back on. Pavelec was at the center of national attention when he lost consciousness and collapsed 2:25 into the season opener. He missed two weeks and nine games before he returned from what was diagnosed as a simple fainting spell.
There is much to look forward to. Pavelec rose to near the top of NHL statistics for goaltenders with his recent play. He will make his third straight start, and 10th straight appearance, Wednesday against Detroit. There are home games against Montreal and Boston in the week ahead.
“I want to help the team get two points,” the 23-year-old Pavelec said. “I’m just looking at the next game, not looking forward, not looking back. The next game is [Wednesday] and we have to be ready.”
Over his last four games, two in relief appearances for Chris Mason, Pavelec has stopped 104-of-108 shots (.963 save percentage) and allowed only four goals. Before Tuesday’s NHL schedule, Pavelec was second in the NHL with a .939 save percentage. He trailed only Boston’s Tim Thomas (.954). His 1.93 goals-against average is third in the league.
“Pavs has settled in and given us some really great outings,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said. “The key part is when we did sag (defensively), he stepped up and made some huge saves. When he had to, he did it. … He’s given us that confidence that if we make a mistake, he can save the day.”
Pavelec has won each of the past two games for the Thrashers, a 5-0 shutout against Washington and a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders. Going back to the second period of last week’s game against Florida and through the goal he allowed against New York Sunday, Pavelec was not scored on for 120:26.
Ramsay admittedly doesn’t do much with the team’s goaltenders. He prefers to leave that to consultant Clint Malarchuk. He knows enough to stay with the hot hand.
Before the early season incident, Ramsay indicated that Pavelec would get more of the games in a platoon with Mason. If Pavelec hasn’t risen to No. 1 status, he’s pretty close.
“If I told you I didn’t want to be [the No. 1 goaltender] I would lie,” Pavelec said. “Everyone wants to play games every night. But it’s not about me, it’s about the team. [Mason] played first 10 games and he was really good. It doesn’t matter who is in the net. It’s important to get the two points and win the game for the team.”
Pavelec saved the game, literally, against the Islanders with his highlight worthy stop in the third period. He gloved a shot bound for an open net to keep the scored tied at 1-1. Pavelec credits the defense for blocking the first shot attempt – one he said he never saw coming. Timing is everything and Pavelec points out the number of times his teammates have cleared the crease of rebounds.
However, he has been the last measure of defense on more than one occasion.
“I showed a [video] clip [Tuesday] where we had a defensive zone error, a coverage flaw on the way back on the backcheck, and [the Islanders] get a shot through and he just ate it up,” Ramsay said. “That ended the whole thing. No rebound, no nothing. Thank you very much. We’ll just take a faceoff and start again.”
Pavelec is doing more stick handling under Ramsay – a skill he admits needs improvement. He is required to stop pucks behind the net and pass to the defensemen in the either corner to start an offensive rush.
Pavelec has three career shutouts, one against Detroit. He blanked the Red Wings 2-0 on Nov. 25, 2009. That’s in the past.
“It’s my job to stop the puck,” Pavelec said. “Sometimes you have good games. Sometimes you have bad games. You have to stay in the middle – not to high, not to low.”