Behind Ondrej Pavelec’s journey from a scary collapse to becoming one of the NHL’s best goalies

As sports writers, it’s tough not to get sucked in to the latest Sappy Story of Inspiration.

Yet you don’t need to insert blurry camera lenses or mood music to make the story of Ondrej Pavelec inspiring: the 23-year-old goalie’s journey pretty much speaks for itself.

In case you’ve forgotten, Pavelec took a nasty and inexplicable fall during the Atlanta Thrashers’ opening night game against the Washington Capitals on October 8th. At that moment in time, scary questions were asked as people worried about his career … and his life.

While doctors couldn’t determine the cause of the fainting spell, they confirmed that Pavelec suffered from a concussion. The young netminder missed three weeks, with backup Chris Mason doing a solid job of holding down the fort in his absence.

After taking a few games to ramp up, Pavelec is now having one of the best seasons of any NHL goalie, with no “good for a guy who got injured” qualifiers necessary. George Henry of the Associated Press wrote a nice feature on Pavelec’s ascent from that accident to becoming one of the top goalies in the league.

“I guess it wasn’t the nicest thing for him to do to his teammates, to pass out and for us not to know what was going on,” Thrashers defenseman Dustin Byfuglien said in jest Wednesday. “But, yeah, he woke up, and he’s been playing well. He’s been good for us.”

Was this some kind of cruel joke usually reserved for cartoons? A guy slams the back of his head against the ice, wins just one of his next seven decisions and then emerges in mid-November as a better goalie?

“It was a scary moment, for sure, but I was back on the ice in 10-14 days,” Pavelec said. “I don’t have any more problems, and that’s nice because you see all the time in sports where something like that happens and the guy doesn’t come back to play the sport they love.”

Pavelec (9-5-2) won’t say if he envisioned having the NHL’s second-best save percentage and goals-against average while he underwent weeks of physical testing and trips to a neurologist.

Check out Henry’s story for more information and insight on Pavelec’s impressive redemption story.

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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

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    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

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    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

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    Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

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    The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

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