James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Ondrej the hot-and-cold giant

Friday, December 23, 2011

If you were to construct a list of the streakiest goalies in the NHL from 2010-11 to today, Ondrej Pavelec should take one of the top spots.


That doesn’t necessarily mean that he is inconsistent. Experienced observers of the game will note that as important as netminders are, they tend to go as their teams go more than the other way around in the post-lockout era. (OK, maybe that’s just my opinion instead of the opinion of many, but I feel strongly about it.)


Wherever you stand on that chicken-and-the-egg argument, the bottom line is that Pavelec and the Winnipeg Jets are producing much improved hockey as of late – including a 4-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens. They’re especially hot in hockey-mad Winnipeg with a 7-1-1 record in their last nine games (including that shutout).


I’ve been extolling the virtues of adding Pavelec as a third goalie option for quite a while now, but last night’s goose egg should be a pretty strong bullet point in favor of that move. In fact, if you’re goalie-poor right now, go ahead and add him now.



Now, as far as what to expect for his future, it’s probably wise to study the Jets' schedule.


The rest of December should be fruitful as he’ll play three of the next four games in Winnipeg. Things get dicey once the New Year comes around, though. They’ll play 14 out of 19 games on the road from Jan. 4 through Feb. 11, so expect a significant lull if the Jets need the home cooking as badly as they’ve needed it so far. (Twelve of their 16 wins took place in the ‘Peg.)


The good news is that Pavelec & Co. will enjoy an extensive run of home games from mid-February to mid-March.


The takeaway should be obvious: he's very likely to be a feast and famine guy again thanks to the extreme highs and lows of that shedule. The only worry is that his tough early start to 2012 might damage his hold on the No. 1 job and his overall confidence to the point that he cannot take advantage of that juicy opportunity. There’s also a chance that Winnipeg will persevere and keep things going during that brutal stretch. That’s certainly plausible, but if you ask me, non-elite teams like the Jets are often very vulnerable to the scheduling gods.


If you’re a Pavelec owner, keep those stretches in mind. I put together a schedule analysis piece for Pro Hockey Talk, so feel free to bookmark that or this Daily Dose as a reminder, if it helps you to keep your head or prepare to strike. You might just find it very lucrative to time your add-drops or low-ball trade offers accordingly.


(I’m not saying Pavelec is going to be spectacular, but how many fantasy owners wouldn’t like an extra solid starter, especially in leagues with a near 1:1 ratio in goalie-to-skater stats?)



Will hiring veteran bench bosses who haven’t had NHL head coaching jobs in years replace mining for AHL gold as the next coach-grabbing trend? I’m three-quarters joking there, but it is kind of funny that Darryl Sutter and Ken Hitchcock are the only replacement coaches who managed to win in their debut games.


Sutter’s Kings beat the Ducks via a 3-2 shootout win and while the impact wasn’t huge from a fantasy standpoint, there were some signs of promise. The Kings out-shot the Ducks 34-22. Drew Doughty assisted on both goals. Mike Richards returned from his concussion issues to score one of those tallies.


Granted, it’s against the lame Ducks, but there were some reasons for muted optimism.


You cannot say the same for the increasingly miserable Randy Cunneyworth era in Montreal, though. He’s now 0-4-0 after the Habs were shut out by Pavelec and the Jets. The Hurricanes/Habs parallels aren’t limited to the Erik Cole and Tomas Kaberle defections as Carey Price continues to work hard but cannot overcome the bad team in front of him – just like Cam Ward. In both cases, the GMs deserved pink slips more than anyone else, but the hockey world can resemble the real one in how unfair it can be. (Don’t expect P.K. Subban to be a healthy scratch again, or Montreal residents will protest more than just Cunneyworth’s ability to speak French.)



There’s bad news all around for the Minnesota Wild. The Edmonton Oilers stomped them 4-1 last night, as it seems like Minnesota is falling off the tight rope they nimbly walked through the first quarter of the season. Want even more depressing news? Mikko Koivu was placed on the IR with whatever his leg issue might be. They’re clearly lost without their Finnish captain, so these are bad times if you own lower-level Minnesota players or - worse yet - one of their once-hot goalies.


(Don’t panic and drop Niklas Backstrom or anything, just know that the gravy train might be off the rails for a little while.)



The Predators were down 4-1 and 5-2 against Columbus but came roaring back on the strength of Shea Weber’s trio of assists … Jordan Eberle has an outstanding 33 points already. Wow … The Blue Jackets should be embarrassed, but don’t blame Jeff Carter, who had a natural hat trick – including two goals on the PP – in the first period last night … Michael del Zotto now has three points in his last four games. It seems like he’s showing the offensive flair that made him such a stunning scorer as a rookie. The best part is that his plus/minus has flip-flopped, as he’s a +20 so far. He might be worth a shot on a Rangers team that is looking like a contender … Daniel Alfredsson is on fire now, including three points last night. Grab him if he’s a free agent … Blake Wheeler’s been playing well, with two goals and one assist from Thursday pushing him to 24 points. You’d like to see more than 18 PIM from a guy that big, but he’s an interesting fringe choice.



Deryk Engelland received a three-game suspension … Nick Foligno is the most noteworthy player from Thursday who might have to sit for one of his hits … Alex Tanguay is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury … Not sure if he’ll miss much/any time, but if Ales Hemsky is on an injury report, it must be mentioned. Apparently he has the flu. His spiritual injury cousin Marco Sturm is also out with being Marco Sturm … A shoulder injury will likely keep Peter Regin out a few weeks … Ryan Shannon could miss a couple with a lower-body issue, too. (Click here for the full injury list.)

James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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