Tired of all the Sid vs Ovi talk yet? You best believe the Penguins, from coach Mike Sullivan on down through the young wingers, are, particularly because they became a serious Stanley Cup contender with a strong team concept and thrived even while two other stars at the team’s core, Marc-Andre Fleury and Evgeni Malkin, missed time with injuries.
Offense will almost certainly remain the center of attention in the second-round playoff series between the Penguins and Capitals. But look for goaltenders to steal the show at least once or twice in what at least I suspect will be a long, back-and-forth string of games.
Washington goalie Braden Holtby emerged as one of three Vezina Trophy finalists on Wednesday afternoon. He tied Martin Brodeur’s NHL record for single-season win total (48), and even advocates of more advanced goalie metrics consider Holtby a quality netminder (though probably not deserving of the Vezina).
If I'm ranking for Vezina it's on consistent above avg performance over lots of starts. Hank and Crawford. pic.twitter.com/QdFoQVlpdW
— Voodoo Non-Believer (@NMercad) April 27, 2016
Rookie Matt Murray, the first of the Penguins’ three goalies to leave the ice at Thursday’s morning skate, will look to hold his own at the opposite end of the rink. Staring across the ice at New York’s Henrik Lundqvist in Round 1, he turned the Penguins’ greatest position-related question mark into an exclamation point. And while it’s still far too early in Murray’s career to declare him a future Lundqvist, the initial signs are encouraging.
Fleury, who participated in the Penguins’ morning skate and also manned a net at practices earlier this week, probably stood a chance of entering the Vezina conversation before his second concussion of the season caused him to miss April — the NHL’s general managers vote on that award. The other finalist spots instead went to Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick and Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop.
Just look at War-on-Ice.com’s all-situations numbers for Holtby, Fleury and Murray. Holtby’s win total and time on ice set him apart. His various save percentages are strong but not necessarily game-changing compared to the Penguins’ top two netminders. (Again, Murray’s stats could change drastically as he sees more ice time and shots, so don’t champion him just yet.)
Let’s assume neither Holtby nor Murray drastically over- or underachieves in this series. Which shots might we expect to beat them? The easy answer is “high-percentage ones.” Thankfully, www.Corsica.Hockey can show us with a little more detail which shots tend to get by the netminders. I also included Fleury just out of curiosity.
If those charts leave your head spinning — they’re certainly a little busy for my eyes — here’s a more digestible form that emphasizes density rather than individual locations.
You’ll notice subtle differences between Holtby and Fleury. The Capitals goalie appears to have allowed a few more goals from the high slot and the top of the right faceoff circle. Fleury gave up a bit more down low. None of this means Holtby or Fleury is weaker in those respective areas — that just happens to be where the goals came from.