Blame the Offense (Goal Production in front of Flower)

Fleury's save percentage is undeniably bad, and that is mostly his own fault (and also the fault of the defense).  However, his early struggles were in games where the offense failed to score enough goals to give him some room, and I believe the offense played a significant role in his current slump.

When the regular season began, the offense failed to score enough goals in front of Fleury, causing him to lose his first three games while only letting in a couple of goals.  (GF = 2 goals, 2, goals, then 3 goals).  Then the Penguins started Johnson for several games in a row, and Fleury did not play for an entire week (Oct 14 until October 21st).  He finally won the game against Nashville, but by then he was on a downward spiral of low confidence, rust from not playing as much, and a bad record.  Then, during his next three starts, the offense once again failed to give him any room, scoring 3 goals, then 2 goals, then 2 goals -- losing all three games.

So, I looked at how many goals the Pens scored in front of Fleury, with goal production in front of Johnson for comparison.

Goal Production in Front of Fleury

Date Opponent GF GA
Oct 7 2010 Flyers 2 3
Oct 9 2010 Habs 2 3
Oct 13 2010 Maple Leafs 3 4
Oct 21 2010 Predators 4 3
Oct 27 2010 Lightning 3 5
Oct 29 2010 Flyers 2 3
Nov 5 2010 Ducks 2 3

Average = 2.57 goals per game.  Pens scored 3 or more in 3/7 games.  Notice that the Pens only scored two goals in four of the games that Fleury played, and that in every one of those games, Fleury let in exactly 3 goals.  Meaning that if the offense had scored just one more goal, we would have gone to overtime (or better) in each of those four games, and Fleury's record would be a lot better.

Goal Production in Front of Johnson

Date Opponent GF GA
Oct 11 2010 Devis 3 1
Oct 15 2010 Isles 3 2
Oct 16 2010 Flyers 5 1
Oct 18 2010 Senators 5 2
Oct 23 2010 Blues 0 1
Oct 30 2010 Canes 3 0
Nov 3 2010 Stars 2 5
Nov 6 2010 Coyotes 3 3

Average = 3.00 goals per game.  Pens scored 3 or more in 6/8 games.  Johnson's save percentage is certainly better than Fleury's.  He didn't need 3+ Pens goals to win most of those games.  But it's worth noting that he got better goal production in most of the games he played.

Finally, I decided to look at the numbers for our glorious start to the 2009-10 season when we were winning most games.  These are the numbers for our first 15 games (since we've played 15 so far this season).  There are some "ties" because we had a few shootout wins, and those goals aren't included:

Date Opponent GF GA Goalie
Oct 02 '09 NYR 3 2 Fleury
Oct 03 '09 NYI 3 3 Fleury
Oct 07 '09 PHX 0 3 Johnson
Oct 08 '09 PHI 5 4 Fleury
Oct 10 '09 TOR 5 2 Fleury
Oct 12 '09 OTT 4 1 Fleury
Oct 14 '09 CAR 2 2 Fleury
Oct 17 '09 TBL 4 1 Fleury
Oct 20 '09 STL 5 1 Fleury
Oct 23 '09 FLA 2 2 Johnson
Oct 24 '09 NJD 1 4 Fleury
Oct 28 '09 MTL 6 1 Fleury
Oct 30 '09 CBJ 3 3 Johnson
Oct 31 '09 MIN 1 2 Fleury
Nov 03 '09 ANA 4 3 Fleury

Average goals scored = 3.2

Average goals scored in front of Fleury = 3.58

Average goals scored in front of Johnson = 1.66

In conclusion, I don't believe that we would be talking about Fleury's horrendous start if the offense had scored more than two goals in some of those early games.  We would probably still be talking about Fleury's subpar save percentage, but it wouldn't be the goaltender crisis that it has become.

Fleury is a talented goalie, and he has the ability to play brilliant flashy games when we need him the most.  But he is also a goaltender who lets in a couple of goals on most nights, and he needs the offense to give him some room.  We can't expect to win if we can't score more than two goals.  And considering our offensive talent (Sid, Geno, etc) we really should expect more than two goals per game.  Fleury deserves criticism for soft goals and bad games, but there have also been many nights where everyone jumped all over him for a 3-2 loss, and it isn't fair to him.  Unfortunately the blame that he got for the bad start has brought us to this point where he is rusty and he isn't playing with confidence.

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