The Toronto Maple Leafs lost Saturday night's contest versus the Winnipeg Jets much the same way they've lost several games this season: by being seriously outplayed and outshot, while their mayor got drunk, and then wandering off into the night to do shenanigans.
Meanwhile, the Jets won the game in much the same way they've won most of their games this season: in spite of their goaltender, Ondrej Pavelec.
Halfway through the first period, before the Jets turned it on (or before Toronto's penchant for getting drastically outperformed caught up with them, in a microcosm of their entire season) Winnipeg found themselves down 2-1, courtesy two goals that featured pretty poor play from their starter.
It's tough to really blame Pavelec on the first. When Nazem Kadri Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel break in 2-on-1, there's a pretty good chance the puck's going in. Granted, there's an even better chance when you severely overplay the shooter like Pavelec did, allowing himself to get so frozen that Kadri Bozak may as well have slid the pass to Kessel across his face.
The Leafs' second goal, however, is entirely Pavelec's doing. Watch this unfortunate bit of stickhandling, as Pavelec misplays a wrap-around, then watches as the puck beats him back to the goal-mouth.
And I do mean watches. Pavelec is alarmingly, disconcertingly, buyout-deservingly nonchalant about this drifting puck. In the replay from the reverse angle, you can see him take two half-hearted strides, then make an attempt to poke the puck out of harm's way that's about twice as half-hearted (quarter-hearted?).
There is a GIF. It is a moving portrait of a man who cares very little if the puck goes in his net, which is weird, since it's literally his one job to prevent that from happening. It's up there with the Ovechkin disconnected controller GIF, except Ovechkin is a professional goal-scorer, not a professional goal-preventer.
This is the Winnipeg Jets starting netminder. The backbone of their team. They need a new backbone, I'd say.
No one is asking Pavelec to be Henrik Lundqvist (and he couldn't be, anyway). But what the Jets do need out of him, especially since he's got a cap hit just shy of $4 million for the next two years, is league average goaltending. A good team can win in the NHL with that.
Pavelec isn't even close, and he's never been close. The last three seasons, the mean save percentage for goaltenders has been around .915. Pavelec has never come anywhere near that with the Jets (although he did post a .914 in 2010-11, when they were still the Thrashers).
In 2011-12, the year that earned him his contract, his save percentage was .906, and it's been falling ever since. This season, it sits at just .901, and if the trend continues, next year it will be in the eight hundreds. Your starter shouldn't be flirting a .8. (There's a DUI joke in here somewhere.)
For further contrast: in 28 games this season, backup Al Montoya, an average goalie, has a save percentage of .920. And there will be several goalies on the market this offseason who can give you average goaltending for pennies on the dollar.
It amazes me that Evander Kane, one of hockey's best young players, continued to get scratched without explanation, while Pavelec is sent out to bring the Jets down from the inside night after night. If The biggest thing the Jets could do to improve this offseason, and the thing they must do, is pay Ondrej Pavelec to go away.
Sure, the Jets could just stop starting Pavelec, I guess, but at this point, there's no explanation for their continued faith in him besides addiction. They need him out of their lives.
For a slightly more visual argument (although, seriously, all you need is that clip), check out this infographic from Arctic Ice Hockey.
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