The Rangers signed Ondrej Pavelec to a one-year, $1.3 million contract on July 1, 2017. Jeff Gorton brought the veteran in to serve as Henrik Lundqvist’s new understudy, replacing Antti Raanta. Many believed that the former Jets’ starter would reduce the workload for a then 35-year-old Lundqvist. Many were wrong.
An Unremarkable Start
Pavelec appeared in six games in the first two months of the 2017-18 season. He was the Rangers’ starter in three of those games. In those first two months the Czech goalie posted an .889 save percentage (all strengths) and won one game. So, yeah, it was not exactly a great start for a guy who was looking to prove that he still had the goods to be a starter in the NHL.
On His Game
Fortunately for the Rangers Pavelec got his act together in early December. The highlight of his season was a four-game stretch between December 5, 2017 and January 7, 2018. Pavelec posted a .961 save percentage in four starts during that stretch. Oh, and he faced an average of 38.25 shots per game in those games. For a brief time Pavelec was a man standing his ground while being buried by an avalanche of shots. Absolutely incredible.
As one might expect, Pavelec’s best single game performance of the year came in that span. On December 27 the Washington Capitals put 30 shots on net, but Pavelec stopped all of them in a 1-0 shootout win. It’s also worth noting that he stopped Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie in the shootout in that game — so it was like a super shutout. Or something. Mega shutout? I dunno, I’m workshopping it.
That commanding performance followed a 44-save game in a 2-1 losing effort against the Dallas Stars on December 11. So, in a span of two starts, Pavelec stopped 74 of the 75 shots he faced. What in the actual hell.
The Full Picture
When Pavelec was on his game he was every bit as exceptional as Raanta was as the Rangers’ backup. Unfortunately, he was not nearly as consistent as Raanta.
In the New Year Pavelec came away with just one win in his six starts. In the 10 games he appeared in 2018 he posted a troubling .895 save percentage (all strengths). But it’s important to remember the team that was playing in front of him in the second half of the season. From January forward, the Rangers had a 45.37 CF% — the worst in the NHL.
It’s hard to put up sexy goaltending stats behind a porous, chaotic blue line on a team that is routinely dominated in possession. Things got worse for Pavelec when he injured his knee on February 9. He missed over six weeks of action, which set the stage for Alexandar Georgiev to make his NHL debut. Pavelec appeared in three games after returning from injury and allowed eight goals in his final two starts.
“I was feeling very good about my game, so I was really disappointed when the injury happened,” Pavelec said back in March. “I felt awful about it. My first year here and I wanted to be a part of it. The way it’s worked out for me and the team, it’s not what anyone hoped for or expected.”
2017-18 NYR Goalie Stats (5-on-5)
Pavelec’s numbers as the Rangers’ backup do not compare favorably to the numbers that Raanta posted last season and in 2015-16, but they were still solid. His .919 save percentage during 5-on-5 play was tied for 39th in the league among goaltenders who played at least 700 minutes. Pavelec’s .873 save percentage on the penalty kill and 79.23 High-Danger save percentage (all strengths) definitely dragged down his overall numbers.
For some, Pavelec exceeded expectations as the Rangers new second-string goaltender. Unfortunately his season was abbreviated by injury and the coaching staff chose to run Lundqvist into the ground (again). It’s also important to note that Raanta was not an easy act to follow, especially when playing behind a defense that was about as effective as a diaper improvised from a mesh tank top.
With all of that being said, it would be shocking to see the Rangers bring the former Atlanta Thrasher back for another year in New York. Pavelec is turning 31 in August and while he was sidelined with his knee injury Georgiev established himself as a promising backup. When he was healthy Pavelec filled his role well and kept the Rangers in a few games that they had absolutely no business being in.
2018 Report Cards: Marc Staal / Mats Zuccarello / Ryan Spooner / Rob O’Gara / Jimmy Vesey / Brendan Smith / Vladislav Namestnikov / Brady Skjei / Steven Kampfer / Jesper Fast / Alexandar Georgiev / Pavel Buchnevich