It's no secret if you've been watching the Thrasher's lately that a great deal of the success the club is having rests at the feet of the red hot goalie Ondrej Pavelec. Pavelec has gone 7-2 since he relieved Chris Mason with a total record now of 8-5-2 with a NHL 2nd best GAA of 1.70 and save% of .948.
Over the course of the last eight games he's stopped 253 of 262 shots and blanked Washington and Montreal. He was named 1st star of the week last week for the NHL and he's still on fire.
Over the off season the Thrashers signed veteran goaltender Chris Mason to fill out the tandem of stoppers for the team and also acquired the services of Clint Marlachuk as goaltending "consultant". I was pretty convinced, based on last years performance, that Chris Mason was being brought in to be the #1 stopper and mentor to Pavelec. Then Ramsay had Pavelec starting the season against Washington and just 2:25 into the game Pavelec fainted and Mason had to take over.
Chris Mason filled in for the next 9 games and did an admirable job, especially given the amount of rubber that was flying at him each and every night. When Pavelec came back he of course, had a bit of rocky start, after all he had to get back to game shape.
Then came the game against the Panthers...you guys remember it...the game where the team literally gave up in the 2nd period. The game where Craig Ramsay called out the players afterward for their efforts. Well they came out in the 3rd period and tried to rally but it was just not enough time to get the job done.
Since that game several things have happened, among them we named Andrew Ladd as captain, the team started playing...can you believe it?? A TEAM GAME and last Ondrej Pavelec caught fire and it's harder to get a puck past him than it is to get dawn past a rooster.
I said all of that....to say this....Is Ondrej Pavelec the fulfillment of the promise that Kari Lehtonen was supposed to be?
Kari was picked in the first round and was to become the man here in Atlanta with superstar written all over him. The big Finn never materialized as the dominant stopper that all had believed he could be. With the exception of the 2006-2007 season he never completed a season without a prolonged absence for injury. He certainly stole some games for us during his tenure with Atlanta, but all Atlanta fans I believe would speak in unison in stating that overall Kari was a dissapointment.
I know it's early...and I realize that any goalie can catch fire and just be unstoppable for a period of games..and maybe it's too early to say for sure...but it's not too early to ask if perhaps Pavelec is all the Lehtonen was supposed to be. He's certainly looking great so far this year. Is this just a hot streak??....I'm inclined to say no...
I think he could cool off some, but I don't think he'll get ice cold at all. He looks more positionally sound this year...he's not leaning forward on his skates, which causes a goalie's ankles to lock, making it much harder to make saves at times. He's staying square to the puck and he's not giving up nearly the amount of second chances so far. I think that Clint Marlachuk is certainly having an impact on the play of the young Czech stopper and his ability to play top level hockey.
So my question is...do you think that Pavelec is just hot now...or is this the product we were promised so long ago with Kari Lehtonen finally coming to fruition?