FanPost

Fleury Inc.: How Stock in The Penguins Netminder Stays Low Despite High Returns

By now, it has become annoyingly obvious to many of you that I view Marc Andre Fleury as one of the best in the game, despite the fact that he often falls closer to the middle in most key measures. As the age of big data is being ushered in, more and more analysts are beginning to trust numbers and analytics as opposed to their eyes. Hell, even as a recent graduate in Marketing from the University of Iowa who is now in charge of the marketing at a local startup, I do whatever I can to find quantifiable measures to analyze in order to make decisions on what our company is going to do moving forward. With that in mind, I'm sure many of you would wonder why I would do the opposite. Is it because I'm blinded by a strong and favorable bias for Fleury, or am I actually on to something. By the end of this article, I'll let you decide.

The Current Metrics:

Following along with the theme of this article, analysts often look for a few key metrics when rating a business (or in our case, a player). Whether looking for ROI or a dividend payout ratio, or Save Percentage and Goals Against Average, most people have a few key indicators that they strongly trust.

Save Percentage (Sv. %):

Simply put, save percentage is a simple measure that takes total saves and divides it by the number of shots that any given goalie faces. Due to the fact that it is a sort of an accuracy measure, it is popularly used to determine if a goalie stops pucks at a high rate, and if goalies who give up a high amount of goals per game on average do so because they just have to face more shots (the inverse is also true). When analyzing the save percentage of the 30 winningest goalies (Doing this helps eliminate outliers), we get the following results.

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via i.imgur.com

With the mode (most often) Sv. % of .915, Marc Andre Fleury does little to stand out when looking at this commonly used metric. With that being the case, why do I still see him as a top performer? The answer is simple. Due to the fact that save percentage is a function of total saves, and does not factor in shot quality or defensive systems, I take this metric with a grain of salt. With a standard deviation of less than 1 in 100, this stat requires nearly identical conditions for all goalies in order for it to have value when comparing goalies with a similar Sv. % (ex. goalie with a .922 vs. .915). Although some people are of the belief that all of the outside factors level out over the course of a full season, there is plenty of evidence that states otherwise.

Although it can be helpful to look at save percentage, it is far from being the end all be all, and is not one of my main measures when I analyze goaltenders.

Goals Against Average (GAA):

Unlike save percentage, which is more of a total measure, GAA is meant to give a per game average. By using the formula (goals against x time on ice)/60 minutes, GAA gives fans a snapshot of how many goals a goalie lets in every 60 minutes. Due to the fact a goalie's main job is to give up the lowest amount of goals, this measure has also become very popular.

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via i.imgur.com

With a GAA of 2.37, Fleury barely falls ahead of the average and median GAAs. However, the standard deviation of .30 makes his numbers look statistically insignificant, and keeps him from standing ahead of his peers again. With an unconvincing confidence level and a large standard deviation to boot, GAA proves to be statistically insignificant in many cases and a bad indicator of how good a goalie truly is. Additionally, it is often a function of the 18 skaters in front of the goalie and the style of play that a team has.

What I look for:

With Sv. % and GAA still being faulty measures that still don't account for important factors like shot quality and a goalie's ability to make key saves that have a major impact on the final results, I feel forced to trust my eyes and create my own metrics. Much like Sv. % and GAA, these measures are faulty as well, but I have a lot more confidence in them due to the fact that they factor in more variables.

Weak Goals Against:

Most top goalies aren't going to get beat unless their opponents are able to get a high quality scoring chance. If a goalie can keep out all of the weak stuff and stop a majority of the better opportunities, any failure to win should lie on the 18 skaters in front of him. Although it hasn't always been the case in the postseason (he was much better this year), Fleury has done an excellent job of forcing his opponents to create high quality chances in order to have a chance at beating him. While watching hundreds of games this season, Fleury stood out to me as one of the best goalies at limiting deflating goals.

Impact on the Standings:

This measure is far and away the most important one in my mind. At the end of the year, holding out until OT in an October game can be the difference between going to the playoffs and going to the golf course. Goalies who can put additional points in the standings due to their exceptional play in any given game have incredible value for their team, and often put themselves in position to win the Vezina. Unfortunatley, efforts that put extra points in the standings often go unnoticed by the national media and front office folk around the league who are too busy watching their team to see all of the big saves that impact the standings but may be left off the 30 second highlights.

Sometimes, players will gain recognition for being successful at this, and will be awarded greatly because of it. Sergei Bobrovsky didn't lead the league in Sv. % or GAA last year, but he took the Vezina due to the fact that people knew he was keeping his team in the playoff race. Working in his favor was the fact that his team was expected to be fishing for lottery picks, and had a notoriously bad offense. Unfortunately for Fleury (from an individual recognition standpoint), he plays behind one of the better offenses in the league, and common assumption is that he doesn't have to do much to put the Penguins in the win column.

No matter how well he plays, fans will look at the Penguins high scoring output and subconsciously allow that to take away from his accomplishments. The agitating part about this is that teams like Tampa Bay (2012 and 2013 with Stamkos and St. Louis) and Washington (2014: #1 PP and Richard winner) give their goalies plenty of support as well, but have missed the playoffs while we have been adding division championships to our trophy case. There is no question that Fleury has been a major reason why we haven't suffered a similar fate in recent years, but it seems as though he may never get the credit he deserves.

Fleury's 2013-2014 Impact on The Standings:

When I look at how a goalie impacted the standings during any given season, I start by looking at all of heir results and eliminating games that would have likely had the same outcome regardless of goalie (as I go back and watch all of these games on gamecenter, I may move a couple of them to a different section (this explains why most games I look at are more recent)). For that reason, I have disqualified the following games from consideration:

Excellent performances (2 GA or less) with strong goal support:

10/3 vs. NJ: 3-0 win (Shutout) (Fleury was #1 star)
10/5 vs. BUF: 4-1 win (Fleury was #1 star)
10/8 vs. CAR: 5-2 win
10/15 vs. EDM 3-2 win
10/17 vs. PHI: 4-1 win (Fleury was #1 star)
10/28 vs. CAR: 3-1 win
10/30 vs. BOS: 3-2 win (Fleury was #1 star)
11/1 vs. CBJ: 4-2 win (Fleury was #1 star)
11/15 vs. NSH: 4-1 win
11/18 vs. ANA: 3-1 win (Fleury was #1 star)
11/20 vs. WAS: 4-0 win (Fleury was #1 star)
11/29 vs. TB: 3-0 win (Fleury was # 1 star)
12/3 vs. NYI: 3-2 OT win
12/5 vs. SJS: 5-1 win (Fleury was #1 star)
12/16 vs. TOR: 3-1 win (Fleury was #1 star)
1/3 vs. NYR: 5-2 win
1/22 vs. MTL: 5-1 win (Fleury was #1 star)
1/27 vs. BUF: 3-0 win (Fleury was #1 star)
2/5 vs. BUF: 5-1 win (Fleury was #1 star)
3/30 vs. CHI: 4-1 win
4/3 vs. WPG: 4-2 win

Solid Wins with strong goal support:

10/12 vs. TB: 5-4 win
10/19 vs. VAN: 4-3 SO Win (weak goal against Edler)
12/18 vs. NYR: 4-3 SO win
12/21 vs. CAL: 4-3 win
12/27 vs. CAR: 4-3 OT win
1/5 vs. WPG: 6-5 win
1/7 vs. VAN: 5-4 SO win
1/15 vs. WAS: 4-3 win
4/9 vs. DET: 4-3 SO win (Huge save on Alfie could have meant an extra point)

Strong performances that ended in losses:

10/21 vs. COL: 1-0 loss
11/9 vs. STL: 2-1 loss (Fleury was our #1 star)
11/13 vs. PHI: 2-1 loss
12/31 vs. NJD: 2-1 loss (Fleury was our #1 star)
3/23 vs. STL: 1-0 loss (Fleury was our #1 star)

Weak performances with insufficient goal support:

10/26 vs. TOR: 4-1 loss
11/6 vs. NYR: 5-1 loss
11/16 vs. NJD: 4-1 loss
12/23 vs. OTT: 5-0 loss
1/20 vs. FLA: 5-1 loss
1/25 vs. DAL: 3-0 loss
2/1 vs. PHX: 3-1 loss
3/1 vs. CHI: 5-1 loss
3/15 vs. PHI: 4-0 loss
4/1 vs. CAR: 4-1 loss

In games where Fleury was listed as the #1 star, I am referencing the "top performer" category from this list. Due to the fact that I didn't factor in empty net goals, some of these games may be improperly categorized (wins: he may have had a bigger role in a game that is closer than I realize; Losses: he may have given up fewer goals). It is very likely that there are a bunch of games from the first list (4 games decided by 2 or less where Fleury was the #1 star) that should qualify for Impact on Standings, but I have chosen not to include them for now because I don't remember enough about them.

To calculate his impact on the standings, I will combine the amount of points lost due to his poor effort and the amount of points gained due to his exceptional effort.

Points lost:

By looking at the list of games his losses, the only games that reasonably qualify for this half of the equation are the following:

11/23 vs. MTL: 3-2 loss (29 SA)
11/25 vs. BOS: 4-3 OTL (24 SA)
12/7 vs. BOS: 3-2 loss (21 SA)
2/7 vs. NYR: 4-3 SO (41 SA)
2/27 vs. MTL: 6-5 SO (29 SA)
3/20 vs. DET: 5-4 OT (30 SA)
3/25 vs. PHX: 3-2 loss (29 SA)
4/12 vs. PHI: 4-3 OT (21 SA; Fleury unquestionably cost us 1 point)

During these games, Fleury picked up 5 of 16 possible points, meaning that he cost us 11 points at most. By looking at the goals he gave up in these games, we can determine how responsible he was for our loss.

11/23 vs. MTL (highlights):

GA: Pacioretty (wrister from slot), Plekanec (wrister from slot), Pacioretty (wrister from right edge of slot)
Big saves: White (2 on 1 wrister from slot), White (one timer set up behind net), Gionta (point blank one timer), Markov (one timer from point), Subban/scrum (PP point shot+ rebounds)

Verdict: The goals were stoppable, and Fleury expressed displeasure after being beaten. With that being said, he made a bunch of other good saves and a strong effort from price was enough for MTL to come out on top. I'm on the fence on this one, and am going to say he (or an average replacement) could have gotten us to OT, which may be asking a bit much of him. -1 point

11/25 vs. BOS (highlights):

GA: Eriksson (breakaway), Smith (point blank one timer on PP), Chara (deflected in by Crosby), Krug (slapper from just inside the dot)
Big saves: Bergeron (one timer set up behind net), Hamilton (screened slapper), Eriksson (point blank rebound off boards)

Verdict: Every goal scored was an A+ chance, and I wouldn't expect any goalie to come up with them. Many of his saves came from ok chances that could have been great, but he did a great job of gobbling up the rebounds to limit them. No effect

12/7 vs. BOS (highlights)

GA: Smith (Slapper from faceoff circle), Krejci (screened wrister from dead center in the slot), Chara (wrister from slot)
Big saves: Marchand (one timer from Marty St. Louis' spot), Paille (breakaway), Smith (cross ice PP one timer)

Verdict: Fleury probably wants the Chara goal back, but his fantastic saves on other A+ chances make up for it. No effect

2/7 vs. NYR (highlights)

GA: Pouliot (loose puck within 5 feet), Girardi (screened PP slapper), Pouliot (rebound off boards on PP)
Big saves: Pouliot (loose puck in close), Richards (screened PP slapper), Hagelin (hard wrister off of d-zone giveaway)

Verdict: No soft goals, but he did let in 2 of 3 SO goals, which is rare for one of the best SO goalies in the game. Letting in 3 quality goals on 41 shots takes the blame off him at the end of the day. No effect

2/27 vs. MTL (highlights):

GA: Gallagher (deke from point blank), Briere (wrister in close), Pacioretty (PP one timer), Emelin (screened PP wrister from point (PP just ended)), Briere (loose puck in front on PP)
Big saves: Gionta/ Galchenyuk (wrister in close and rebound), Emelin (wrister with lots of time and space)

Verdict: All goals were on good chances, and a late 5 minute penalty killed us. No scoring by us in the SO didn't help matters either. It's hard to say whether or not the average goalie stops any of the 5, so it's tough to say that Fleury cost us this game. Not a very good defensive effort regardless. I'd say no effect, but you can argue -1

3/20 vs. DET (highlights)

GA: Alfredsson (Wrister from slot), Nyquist (PP centering pass in off Scuderi), Tatar (point blank one timer), Bertuzzi (centering pass off Maata), Alfredsson (loose puck in off Scuderi)
Big saves: Glendenning (breakaway), Franzen (wrister w./ time and space), Alfredsson (deflection from slot), Alfredsson (one timer from slot on PP), DeKeyser (one time slapper inside of dot), Alfredsson (rebound in close)

Verdict: The numbers definitely lie in this one. Fleury played much better than the 5 GA imply. No effect

3/25 vs. PHX (highlights)

GA: Moss (point blank one timer in slot), Vermette (PP point blank loose puck), Boedker (roofed a loose puck in close at end of PP)
Big Saves: Yandle (screened one timer on PP)

The highlights were incomplete on this one, so I'm sure there were more saves than what I listed. All 3 goals were right next to the net, and it's tough to say that any other goalie would stop them. No effect

4/12 vs. PHI (highlights)

No need to break this one down. Fleury was off his game, and cost us a point in this overtime loss. -1 point

Total negative effect: -2 to -3 points

Points Stolen:

12/9 vs. CBJ: 2-1 Win
12/13 vs. NJD 3-2 win
1/11 vs. CGY: 2-1 win
2/3 vs. OTT: 2-1 win
3/4 vs. NSH: 3-1 win
3/7 vs. ANA: 3-2 win
3/11 vs. WAS: 2-0 win
3/28 vs. CBJ: 2-1 win
4/6 vs. COL: 3-2 win

These 9 games all come into recent memory as being games that Fleury stole for us. As I mentioned before, there are a handful of games in the exceptional performance category that could qualify here, but I'm not going to count them for the time being.

12/9 vs. CBJ (highlights)

GA: Calvert (point blank one timer (ended shutout in final minute))
Big saves: Atkinson (screened wrister in close), Calvert (wrap around and rebound), Johnson (screened wrister in sloppy play), Johnson (point blank wrister), Johnson (PP one timer)

Verdict: Fleury was extremely busy during the 3rd, and was able to do a great job of securing rebounds early to limit chances then. We couldn't ask for a better performance, and anything less would have put us in trouble in a game where we struggled to score. +2 points

12/13 vs. NJD (highlights)

GA: Elias (Point blank redirection), Zubrus (rebound of initial shot bounced in off Maata)
Big saves: Sestito (rebound in front), Josefsen (backhand in slot), Bernier (breakaway), Zajac (rebound in front), Elias (point blank stuff attempt), Bernier (point blank wrister), Bernier (loose puck in front (highlight save)), Brunner (breakaway), Bruner (point blank redirect/one timer), Ryder (point blank shot)

Verdict: Fleury made a ridiculous amount of big saves in a poor defensive effort. He absolutely was the reason we won this game. +2 points

1/11 vs. CGY (highlights):

GA: Backlund (Slapper on rush)
Big Saves: Cammaleri (one timer in slot), Backlund (slapper on loose puck), Byron (breakaway), Hudler (wraparound), Backlund (back of the head save), Stempniak (deflection on screened PP Slapper), Stempniak (snap shot from slot)

Verdict: Not a great effort from our skaters, but Fleury came up huge repeatedly, sealing the win. +2 points

2/3 vs. OTT (highlights)

GA: Da Costa (roofed wrister in close)
Big Saves: Karlsson (Save of the year), Zibanejad (point blank redirect/one timer on 2 on 1), Greening (point blank wrister on goal line), Da Costa (one timer in slot), Methot (Slapper with time and space)

Verdict: In an OT win where Flower made the save of the year to send it there, it's pretty clear he stole 2 points for us. +2 points

3/4 vs. NSH (highlights)

GA: Hornqvist (2nd rebound in tight)
Big Saves: Nystrom (backhand in close from slot), Weber (one time slap shot), Gaustad (point blank stuff attempt), Moser (cross ice one timer), Bourque (in close rebound)

Verdict: Also worth noting was his big play to turn a SH opportunity into possession that led to the GWG. Add that to a bunch of big saves in a 2-1 game sealed with an empty netter, and you have yourself 2 more points we really shouldn't have. +2 points

3/7 vs. ANA (highlights)

GA: Perry (rebound in crease), Perry (one time tip in from 1 foot away from the crease)
Big Saves: Bonino (screened slapper from point), Silfverberg (one time slapper just outside of the slot), Allen (screened slapper in space), Getzlaf (wrister in slot), Fowler (one timer just outside the slot), Perry (wrister just outside slot on rush), Maroon (3 on 1 one timer in close), Silfverberg (wrister in slot), Lovejoy (One time Slapper), Perry (wrister from slot), Lindholm/Getzlaf (wrister in slot + rebound)

Verdict: Fleury faced a barrage in a game where we were absolutely outplayed from start to finish. Big SO win for us. +2 points

3/11 vs. WAS (highlights)

GA: Shutout
Big Saves: Chimera (breakaway wrister), Alzner (screened slapper), Kuznetzov (wrap around + additional rebounds), Penner (3 on 2 wrister), Wellman (one timer on goal line), Ovechkin, (wrister from left dot), Johansen (wrister inside right dot on PP), Brouwer (one timer from slot on PP), Ovechkin (one time slapper from point), Kuznetzov (scorpion save).

Verdict: Another very busy game against one of the best offenses in the league. This game could have easily gone in favor of the Caps, but Flower never gave them a thing to celebrate about. He clearly outplayed Halak, who represents a league average replacement for our purposes. +2 points

3/28 vs. CBJ (highlights)

GA: Wisniewski (screened PP slapper to end shutout with 3 minutes left)
Big Saves: Schultz (snapper from slot), Jenner (screened slapper on PP), Comeau (wrister from slot), Atkinson (backhand from 10 feet), Anisimov (point blank defelction), Anisimov (wrister in slot from 15 feet), Dubinsky (backhand while wide open in front), Dubinsky (wrister on loose puck with open net), Johansen (wrister from inside dot), Horton (one timer from left boards), Anisimov (point blank deflection), Johansen (point blank snapper w./ 10 seconds left)

Verdict: Tons of big saves in a near shutout effort. Although most people will remember this game for Beau's return, Fleury's great effort was the real reason we picked up 2 points. +2 points

4/6 vs. COL (highlights)

GA: O'Reilly (point blank one timer from behind the net pass), Bordeleau (deflection on heavily screened shot)
Big Saves: Mackinnon (wrister in slot from 15 feet out), McGinn (wrister from slot), Talbot (wrister on tight on left), Landeskog (2 on 1 point blank), Mitchell (wrister in slot), Mackinnon (wrister inside right dot), Barrie (one timer in slot), Mackinnon (backhander on odd man rush), O'Rielly (PP one timer on right side), Johnson (PP slapper from point), Talbot (wrister from slot), Benoit (PP wrister from slot on loose puck), Benoit (PP one timer on right), Hejda (wrister from slot), McGinn (slapper off pass (huge glove save).

Verdict: An extremely busy night for Fleury in a game we shouldn't have reached OT in. +2 points

Total Positive Effect: +18

Total Effect: 18- 2(or 3) = 15-16 points

Final Standings: 109 points - 15/16 = 94/93 points

94 points: 6 seed (3rd in Metro, 1st round vs. PHI)

93 points: 7/8 seed (4th in Metro, 1st round vs. NYI)

While it's easy to look at averages in order to pass judgments, the best way to judge a player's impact is to look at each individual instance that led to it. As the list of starts shows, a lot of our scoring came in blowouts, while other games lacked offense. By coming up huge in many of these close games, Fleury made running away with the Metro look much easier than it actually was. Whether or not you agree with my assessments with each individual games, I would hope that you are able to at least understand where I'm coming from and the logic that I use.

The content expressed in fanposts does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the staff here at Pensburgh.com. FanPosts are opinions expressed by fans of various teams throughout the league but may be more Pittsburgh-centric for obvious reasons.

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