AFTERMATH: Pens beat Oilers in shootout

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(Getty)

(Getty)

Marc-Andre Fleury has done a lot in his last three appearances to bust up some narratives that were forming about him.

When he didn’t get traded at the deadline, I think there was a storyline developing that said Fleury was a goalie in decline, limping toward the finish line of his tenure with the Penguins.

He’s still closing in on that finish line, but he’s not limping.

He was great in a 3-2 Penguins shootout win over Edmonton tonight, especially in the last two periods.

When David Desharnais scored 4:55 into the second period to cut the Penguins’ lead to 2-1, the Penguins were outshooting the Oilers 14-10. The momentum shifted dramatically at that point. The rest of the game, the Oilers had a 32-16 advantage in shots and a 56-33 advantage in shot attempts. Fleury played a big role in the Penguins surviving that ice tilt and coming up with two points in the standings.

This save on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in overtime was particularly sick.

Anyway, putting aside the highlights and looking at the bigger picture, there has been precious little difference between Fleury and Matt Murray since Christmas.

W-L-OTL GAA SV%
FLEURY 8–3–1 2.68 0.918
MURRAY 12–5–2 2.59 0.920

When Mike Sullivan talks about how glad he is to have two starting goalies — and he says that all the time — I think there’s a tendency to roll your eyes a little bit. I mean, what else is he supposed to say? But these numbers sort of prove his point.

One more goaltending stat before I move on. Check out the NHL’s save percentage leaders since the trade deadline. (Minimum two games played.)

goaliessincemarch1 Four of the goalies on that list — Elliott, Fleury, Allen and Lehtonen — were the subject of a good bit of trade speculation before the deadline, either that they would be moved or that their teams needed to upgrade at the position.

I’m not one to put much faith in psychoanalytical stuff when it comes to the performance of pro athletes, but in a small sample size, it sure looks like relieving the stress of the trade deadline really helped those four guys.

Some other notes:

— Phil Kessel hasn’t scored in 10 games and he had the puck roll off his stick on a potentially tie-breaking breakaway attempt with four minutes left in the third period tonight, but man, his shot in the shootout was filthy. 

It seems like Kessel does stuff like this on a regular basis. You watch him early in a game and think, “What in the world was he trying to do there?” but by the end of the night, it somehow comes up roses.

— In the first period, it was the Geno and Bonino show. Both scored goals as the Penguins took a 2-0 lead.

For Bonino, it looks like his late-season hot streak might be starting. He has four goals in his last two games. He had four goals in his previous 33 games before that.

Malkin, meanwhile, has 10 goals and 17 points in 12 games since returning from a lower-body injury. Connor McDavid, who was sensational tonight by the way, leads the league with 75 points. Malkin is tied with Patrick Kane for second with 71. Malkin leads the league with 1.20 points per game.

Here were the Bovada.lv odds for the Art Ross Trophy as of March 2.

artrossoddsIf you can still get Malkin at 12-1 right now, do it.

— Those shot and shot-attempt totals I mentioned earlier when discussing Fleury made it look like the Penguins got run out of the barn tonight, but when you look at the score-adjusted Corsi chart from hockeystats.ca, you’ll see it wasn’t as lopsided as the raw numbers might have made it look.

chart (15)

I’d argue the Penguins performed the way you’d expect a road team with a 2-0 lead in the second period to perform more often than not. That’s nothing to brag about, but it’s nothing to freak out about either.

— As for individuals, a rough night for Chad Ruhwedel. When he was on the ice at even strength, the Oilers outshot the Penguins 21-7. He also took a penalty and misfired on a good scoring chance set up by Crosby. Two other defense pairs — Dumoulin-Schultz and Streit-Hainsey — performed reasonably well to cover for the Cole-Ruhwedel pair, so it worked out in the end.

The Sheary-Crosby-Guentzel line created a lot of shots but also gave up a lot. Kunitz-Bonino-Wilson had a pretty decent night.

— Oskar Sundqvist had a relatively quiet night in his season debut, playing with Tom Kuhnhackl and Carter Rowney. Sundqvist centered the line in place of Cullen, who was out with what Sullivan described as a nagging lower-body injury. He’s day to day.

— Finally, the Metropolitan Division is so brutal. The Capitals have lost two in a row, which barely counts as a losing streak, and all of a sudden, they have two teams right up in their business. It’s a tough crowd.

standings0311

Bye for now,

jb

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