Only One Stat Matters With Fleury
Statistics never tell the entire story.
Imagine what your hockey experience would be like if you could only look at a box score and the NHL statistical leader categories to form your assessment of any given NHL player.
Statistical analysis, while a key factor in determining the success of certain players in certain areas, is never enough to tell the full story of a players NHL career.
Goaltending, specific to save percentage and goals-against average, tell you a lot about a goaltenders capability in leading his team to the Stanley Cup.
But these statistics, while meaningful, never tell us the full picture of what a goaltender is capable of.
So for people outside of Pittsburgh that don’t watch the Penguins with any sort of regularity, seeing Marc-Andre Fleury’s current statistics might paint a picture of a player that isn’t a key cog in the Dan Bylsma machine.
Fleury currently ranks twentieth in save percentage at .915, and ninth in goals against at 2.29.
Those aren’t statistics that exactly jump out as you as all-world.
But upon further examination, we find Fleury at second overall in wins at 35. And for me, that is the only statistic that matters.
Marc-Andre Fleury’s ability to win those games lie in his uncanny knack for stopping the most bizarre and intense scoring chances that the Penguins, albeit rarely, allow him to face.
Fleury might be one of the most important cog’s in the current Bylsma machine. He allows the Penguins to play with confidence in front of him, take chances, and have the knowledge that an elite goaltender is backstopping them to victory.
Think hard about the last stretch of twenty or so games, can you pinpoint one specific start that Marc-Andre Fleury flubbed? I’m talking about solely sabotaging the Penguins ability to win a game.
I certainly can’t think of one.
The point of this article isn’t to undermine goaltenders that sit at the top of the statistical rankings of the NHL. There are undoubtedly goaltenders better than Marc-Andre Fleury. The reverse is true as well.
The point here is that Fleury has a niche in Pittsburgh. It started when Marc-Andre Fleury made his first start in the city of Pittsburgh against the L.A. Kings.
The Penguins went on to lose that game in a convincing fashion, but had it not been for the efforts of a young goaltender donning bright yellow pads via Cape Brenton of the QMJHL, it could have been a blowout.
I’ll never forget the Mike Lange quote that night. Esa Pirnes was awarded a penalty shot on the young goaltender, and Fleury dazzled to make the save as Mike Lange subtly commented: “He’s found a home in the city of Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury.”
A description that only Mike Lange could make.
While Fleury isn’t sitting at the peak of his peers in terms of what he brings to the table, he just wins games.
I can’t put it any easier than that. Winning is something that Marc-Andre Fleury does with regularity.
He may allow a soft goal on the high-glove side, he might not be the most mechanically sound goaltender in the world, but for what the Pittsburgh Penguins do, for what Dan Bylsma is about, that French-Canadien smile is all the Penguins need.
With thirty-five wins on the docket already and plenty of games to go, Marc-Andre Fleury is en route to what might be the most underrated forty win season of his young career.
Strike that, it might be the most underrated forty win season in the NHL.
As for the statistics? Sure, they’re important.
But with Marc-Andre Fleury, everything takes a backseat in light of his ability to secure two points for the Pittsburgh Penguins on a nightly basis.
I don’t know about you, but that’s all I care about.