Good or bad, the spotlight is always going to be on this guy. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
For fancy talk on advanced stats, the place to go is NHLNumbers.com and they've analyzed a season preview for the Pittsburgh Penguins here. It's definitely worth a read and learning something, especially with the lockout coming in three days. Nice, if only diversionary.
The Penguins have had the worst injury luck in the league over the last couple seasons, but have nevertheless ramained one of the best teams in the East. When healthy, the lineup is up there with the Kings as one of the two best in the league. Pittsburgh is, and should be, the favorite to win the East. The defense is solid, they will have two elite lines and a decent shutdown line. Their goaltending potentially could go from below average to very good if Vokoun comes through, stays healthy and wins the starting job.
Even with the Staal trade, Crosby playing close to a full season and the improvement in goaltending means the Pens have a good chance to improve on last year's record, which was third best in the NHL.
The article, as most stat-inclined pieces are, is very harsh on Marc-Andre Fleury. Their driving metric on goalie remains save percentage and Fleury has always been a middle of the pack (at best) player in that department. As we know, Fleury doesn't see a ton of shots but the system Dan Bylsma and the Pens run often stretches the assignments of the forwards and defensemen to (and somtimes past) the breaking point, giving up a lot of odd-man rushes the other way. Which doesn't make for a great recipe to have a stellar save percentage at the end of the year.
Even Fleury's March, where by all accounts he was pretty much lights out with 11 straight starts and an 8-2-1 record would only draw minor praise for being a short sample size and a barely above average .924 save percentage, even if his play was notches above "slightly above average".
Still, this will be one of the most interesting aspects of Tomas Vokoun, a favorite son of the advanced stats world. Vokoun has long held a terrific sv%, in fact last season in Washington was his worst personal year by far and it still topped Fleury. So now that a capable second goalie is around, how his stats compare to MAF's will be a very interesting development to keep an eye on.
That goaltender rant aside (and the stat guys do have reason to complain about the narrative that Fleury gets a lot of praise), the rest of the article drops a lot of knowledge about Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and how they compare...How the Pens will fare replacing the past tough assignments of Jordan Staal with Brandon Sutter and a sunnier look at the Pens defensive corps than most vocal Pens fans have.