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Marshall: Metrics make Fleury’s case as Pens’ big difference maker.


Note from Rossi: Jesse Marshall, a local hockey blogger, has agreed to share his unique brand of analytical insight on this blog. His contributions will appear on an as-we-think-of-it basis. Enjoy.


The New York Rangers have faced a lot of problems over the last 120 minutes of hockey in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs:

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby appears at the beginning of resurgence after a slow start. Also, the series’ schedule – six games in nine days, perhaps the most oft-discussed issue – hasn’t helped in the fatigue department.

But the largest looming issue the Rangers haven’t been able to address lies in the Penguins goal. When the final whistle sounded on Game 3, Marc-Andre Fleury was able to accomplish something that no other goaltender in Penguins history has: consecutive playoff shutouts.

With so much negativity surrounding the Penguins goaltending situation at the start of the regular season, Fleury has found himself in the middle of addressing any and all questions about his ability to play well in big games.

The numbers back up that he looks to be back to a long-ago playoff form.

Let’s start the evaluation of Fleury’s play by looking at even-strength save percentage. Fleury currently sits at a .950 save percentage at 5-on-5 play, a number that’s .009 behind Boston’s Tuukka Rask for tops in the playoffs, and .006 ahead of the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist.

Fleury also currently sits at fifth with an overall goals-against average of 2.22. When you consider the Penguins are averaging 3.11 goals per game these playoffs, that’s a pretty large disparity between goals-against and goals-for.

But, to take the metrical analysis a step further, let’s quantify what Fleury’s performances this postseason mean in a tangible goals-against manner by looking at Goal Differential.

Goal Differential is a statistic that measures how many goals a goalie has prevented above the league-average at the position. In this calculation, we look at the average save percentage among all starters in the postseason with at least five games played. This comes out to .916 percent.

Through a short calculation, we can surmise how many goals Fleury has allowed above the league average goaltender.

Through his first nine games, Fleury’s Goal Differential at even-strength is 6.2 – meaning he has allowed 6.2 less goals at even-strength than the league average.

Think back on the Penguins first nine games. Add in six extra goals scored by the opposition. That’s enough to perhaps prevent the Penguins from being in Round 2, let alone carrying a 2-1 series lead.

One thing is for certain: Fleury is seeing the puck as well as he has all season. If the Penguins continue to play solid defense in front of him, the Rangers will continue to have their work cut out for them.

Jesse Marshall is co-founder of Faceoff-Factor, a site that breaks down the Penguins by using nontraditional methods such as the study of advanced statistics. Read his work at Follow him on Twitter @jmarshfof






Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

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