By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
Confidence has been a key word for the Winnipeg Jets since Paul Maurice took over as head coach and it would be tough to argue that no one player has been affected by that moniker more than Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec.
Skeptics would place much of the blame for the Jets poor season thus far on Pavelec, and at times it has been tough to blame them. Pavelec, and the rest of the Jets were woeful under Claude Noel, to the point where Noel was relieved of his duties just a couple weeks ago.
However, since Maurice took over the coaching duties, Pavelec has seen a return to form with a 4-1-0 record, with a .942 save percentage and 1.60 goals against average and has not let in more than two goals in his past five games. Similar to his perception under Noel, it would be tough to argue against Pavelec’s revival under Maurice.
“We have a lot of confidence in Pavs right now,” Bryan Little told media members after Saturday morning’s pre-game skate. “He’s been making big saves and keeping us in hockey games, especially that last road trip. I think in Anaheim he helped us win that game big time and he kept us in the game in San Jose. Anytime we do make a mistake we feel that he will come up with a big save.”
Little wasn’t the only Jets player singing the praises of their No. 1.
“He has been phenomenal,” said Blake Wheeler without a hint of reservation. “He has been everything we have needed him to be. He has made huge saves for us to keep us in games and he has won games for us too. You need that out of your goalie, especially when you are playing the type of competition that we have been playing. You need your goaltender to be, if not your best player, one of your best players.”
“There is no point in any game that he has played where he hasn’t had to be the difference,” added Maurice. “Confidence that your team gets…if your goalie is on you win that game.”
Pavelec, who will get his eighth straight start in the Jets’ crease, credits the team game in front of him, especially on the defensive side of the puck, and the return of his own confidence.
“We have played really good defensively and we have the confidence and I feel really good in net right now,” said Pavelec.
All of this new found confidence can be attributed back to Maurice, who Jets players say has been instrumental in getting this team back on track.
“He has given us that confidence that we can win again,” said Little. “I think the good thing is that he didn’t come in here and try and change everything, try and teach us new systems and drastically make big changes. He came in and changed a couple things but he has been building our confidence which is the biggest thing for us right now.”