This past weekend, Thrashers coach John Anderson turned to Johan Hedberg to start in Saturday night’s game on Long Island…this after Hedberg had played the night before in the 4-3 overtime loss in Buffalo. After the team fell behind 3-0 after the first period against the Islander, Anderson opted to stick with the 36-year old veteran instead of pulling him for the younger, rested Ondrej Pavelec.
Conversely, the last two times Opie has been tagged for three in the first period, he was yanked in favor of Hedberg. Last Wednesday, after allowing three goals on ten shots, Anderson pulled the youngster and sent in Hedberg…who then stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced. Unfortunately in that game, the Bruins’ defense and Tuukka Rask simply denied Atlanta any chance of mounting a comeback.
Just a week prior, after giving up three to Boston on eight shots, Pavelec was lifted and Moose’s efforts in the nets gave his teammates time to at least make a game of it. That night, Hedberg stopped 20 of 22 in relief of Pavelec and the Thrashers were able to get to within a 5-4 deficit before an empty-netter closed the door on that comeback attempt.
So, can one take Anderson’s recent decisions with his goaltenders as a vote of no confidence for Ondrej Pavelec? Not so, say’s the coach.
“[Hedberg] was just playing really well”, said Anderson Monday. “ I think I pulled Pavs two of the last five games. I’m not a guy that pulls goalies. The first time I did it in Boston, I thought we just needed a change of heart. Then we came back”.
Continuing, “Now we are in the same situation. As a coach you revert back to what happened last time. I’m not blaming Pavs, but I’m trying to get the team going. If it’s pulling the goalie, that’s what I’m going to do. It wasn’t so much with his play.”
Regardless, I do have to admit that I was pleased to hear Anderson chose to go with Hedberg Saturday over Pavelec. Yes it was the backside of back-to-backers…and yes Hedberg is a 36-year old career backup…but I’d just rather see him start than Pavs at this time.
Opie did great for longer than many of us thought he would to begin the season, but when this kid hits a wall…he hits it hard. And I think he ran head-on to one shortly after blanking the Red Wings in Detroit on November 25.
Overall, Hedberg is 9-6-3 with a 2.62 GAA and .910 SV% on the season. Pavelec is 9-11-3 with a 3.52 GAA and .900 SV%. But most importantly at this time, Hedberg is 5-3-3 in his last 11 starts. Also, there has only been two times this season that the thrashers have lost by more than one goal when Hedberg has started the game…and one of those was a 3-1 loss in Calgary in which the third goal was an empty-netter.
More recently, since we stuffed our bellies with Thanksgiving turke Moose has looked the more reliable of the two. Of the most recent 15 points the Thrashers have earned in the standings dating back to November 30, 13 of those points came from games started by Hedberg.
During that same time frame, Opie has started eight times winning only once. That victory, as you’ll recall, was the 6-5 OT win against Dallas. However, in his last eight starts, he has a 5.29 GAA with an .860 SV%. Three times in those games, he’s been yanked from the nets by Anderson…twice before the second period began after surrendering 3 goals.
Which goalie are you more confident in now?
Total Voters: 87
The only time Hedberg has had to be pulled this season was back on October 24 when he was lifted in the second period after allowing four goals on 12 San Jose shots. He left with the score 4-1 and the Thrashers wound up losing 4-3.
So the coach may say he’s hasn’t lost confidence in Pavelec just yet, but his actions look to me as though he certainly does have the youngster on a short leash…a leash that he doesn’t seem to have fastened on Moose’s collar.
John Anderson indicated to Chris Vivlamore that Kari Lehtonen could possibly return to play sometime this month…2 to 3 weeks. This means Pavelec or Hedberg is going to have to carry this this team to that point and…depending on how they perform…will give the Thrashers any hope of a playoff push when Kari does return.
Which one are you more confident in to get us from here to there…Opie or the Moose?