Let’s not sugar coat this. Ondrej Pavelec cost the Winnipeg Jets a precious point. Perhaps two points.
It doesn’t matter that Michael Hutchinson soiled the sheets, getting in the way of just three of seven shots before head coach Paul Maurice told him to take rest of the night off and called on Pavelec to mop up the mess. History records that the Winnipeg Jets overcame their starter’s grim goaltending on Tuesday night, erasing a 1-4 deficit and positioning themselves to secure at least a point and possibly two if Dame Fortune were to have smiled on them in overtime or a shootout.
Then it happened. With 63 ticks left on the clock. Pavelec whiffed on a Barret Jackman flutter-puck from a different zip code and the Jets’ good deeds, as well as those of their backup goaltender who blocked the first 19 shots that came his way, went unrewarded.
So, yes, although the victim of just one of five tallies, that 5-4 setback to the Blues in St. Louis is on Pavelec. No one else. You cough up that huge a hair ball on a flip shot from outside the blueline, the buck stops at your goal crease, even if the puck doesn’t. You wear the loss. You wear the blame. And you have nowhere to hide.
Except that’s what Pavelec did, didn’t he? He hid.
The much-maligned man who began this National Hockey League crusade as the Jets overpaid No. 1 backstop but has since been relegated to the role of overpaid caddy for the freshman Hutchinson, chose not to share his thoughts on surrending such an unlikely score that, should the Winnipegs fail to qualify for the Stanley Cup tournament, shall be revisted as a pivotal point in their retreat in the standings. News scavengers were at the ready, no doubt salivating at the prospect of Pavelec saying something stupid or damning in a post-match chin-wag that surely would have been charged with emotion.
Pavelec didn’t oblige them, though. Not on Tuesday night. He remained sequestered in an area of the Jets changing room that is off limits to scribes and talking heads, no doubt licking a wound that was still open, fresh and untreated.
I can’t say that I blame him.
I mean, sure, players and coaches are expected to be available to answer for their actions and behavior. It’s part of the gig. There are times, however, when it’s best to keep one’s lips zipped when people with notebooks, microphones and agendas are lurking. This, Pavelec decided, was one of those times.
“Be honest,” he said when breaking his silence the day after the fact, “you are not in the mood to talk to the media after that happens. I didn’t see it as a big deal.”
Was he wrong to give news scavengers the brushoff? Not at all.
Pavelec certainly didn’t owe the Fourth Estate an explanation for his faux pas. Anything he might have said wasn’t going to alter the reality that Barret Jackman beat him with a weak shot that passed through three time zones before finding the back of the net. The writers saw what happened. So write it. The broadcasters saw what happened. So speak it.
What surprised me was that the two local scribes on site in St. Loo, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun and Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press, gave Pavelec a pass on his silence. I had expected either, perhaps both, to deliver a tsk-tsking. Had this, by way of comparison, been Phil Kessel and the Toronto media, they would have sliced him, diced him and run him through a blender.
But both Wiebe and Lawless dutifully described the situation and reported that Pavelec declined comment. There has been no fallout. Nothing else to see here, folks.
Does this mean the Winnipeg media isn’t as gritty and hard-edged as their brethren in T-dot? Nope.
While much of the coverage has been lap-doggish since the Atlanta caravan rolled into River City in 2011—most notably in the “official” newspaper of the Jets—to scold Pavelec for his Marcel Marceau routine in St. Loo would have been to hatch a tempest out of nothingness. You know, like they do in the Republic of Tranna whenever Kessel speaks or doesn’t speak. Or like the Winnipeg media did whenever Evander Kane clipped his toe nails.
The reporter-athlete relationship is often fragile, if not adversarial. Fabrication seldom, if ever, helps.
In this case, the scribes stuck to the story. Pavelec coughed of a hair ball the size of Don Cherry’s ego. That’s what they wrote. He didn’t have to confirm it for them. Everyone moved on.
Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being. Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of sports knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old and comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and she apparently doesn’t know when to quit. Or she can’t quit.
She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for her scribblings about the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and her induction into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.