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Penguins thoughts and nuggets 2/17: Dissecting Marc-Andre Fleury, no 3rd period comebacks

News and nuggets around the Pittsburgh Penguins: guess what period Fleury has the best stats? A look at why the Pens are one of the worst teams in the league in comebacks this season, more power play thoughts and a look at the tight divisional race!

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

#1 Saw this stat that was initially posted on HFBoards, a look at Marc-Andre Fleury 's stats per period, through 43 games played this season.

1st Period: .914% 2.30 GAA
2nd Period: .916% 2.47 GAA
3rd Period: .934% 1.83 GAA
Overtime: .929% 2.83 GAA

The save % in the first 2 periods are right in-line with what Fleury has provided recently on a year-to-year basis (.913%, 916% and .915% in the last 3 seasons), which makes his excellent output in 3rd periods stand out all the more. Can he sustain that level of play down the stretch? And, better yet, if Fleury can be sharper earlier in games that would really help the Penguins, because....

#2 The Pens are 1 of only 2 teams in the league (Winnipeg being the other) to not have won a game this season when trailing going into the second intermission. Pens are 0-10-4 in such situations. This hasn't yet been a team to really force many comebacks, which seems interesting as the playoffs are right around the corner. Granted, if the Pens had won the shootout Sunday vs CHI, they would have earned their first win when trailing after 40. So it would be understandable not to place THAT much weight into this stat, but it can also go to show how difficult it can be in the NHL in this day and age to dig out of a hole late in games.

#3 Also, the Pens do have a more than respectable 10-3-4 record when tied after 2 periods, so it's not like they're melting away in close games, which also makes sense when you consider that MAF has been so good late in games. Not being able to mount a comeback late though certainly does seem to loom large.

#4: TSN's Darren Dreger reported the Penguins were interested in Cody Franson (who was traded from Toronto to Nashville with Mike Santorelli for a 2015 1st round pick, prospect and Olli Jokinen ). But the Pens couldn't match Nashville's offer, being as Pittsburgh already shipped their top pick to Edmonton for David Perron last month. That's a win in my eyes- much better to have Perron for 1.5 seasons and 2 playoff runs, than to only have Franson for <30 games and 1 playoff run.

#5 With Franson traded and Marc Methot staying in Ottawa (they signed him to a 4 year contract extension over the weekend) the number of good defensemen trade targets are drying up, and the few remaining ones (like Andrej Sekera or Jeff Petry ) will see their asking price go up on the laws of supply/demand. Unfortunately the bad trade targets- like Jan Hejda or Scott Hannan - are not going to dry up, since no one is in a hurry to trade for or re-sign old, past their expiration date defensemen. Hopefully the Penguins don't make a Douglas Murray 2.0 mistake and bring in a useless veteran near the deadline.

#6 How the Penguins address their defense remains to be seen, though. They look set to have Paul Martin - Kris Letang together as the top pair, a smart move since both are capable and mesh well together. Then Rob Scuderi and Simon Despres are linked and each have been at their best while together, while seeming to struggle when apart. Which leaves what for Christian Ehrhoff? The answer would have been Olli Maatta, but his injury has opened up a hole that neither Robert Bortuzzo nor Derrick Pouliot look ready enough to fill. As we've said before, the Penguins have a need and probably will make a trade, but how they intend to get a good player, fit under the salary cap and not give up valuable assets in a trade remains to be seen. And will be a huge challenge for the front office.

#7 Or do you think that maybe, just maybe, Pouliot can pair with Ehrhoff and play a decent role down the stretch? It wouldn't be a bad idea to keep giving him a chance to see if he's ready to swim at the NHL level right now, but if he sinks and they don't get a backup plan that would have to be worst case scenario.

#8 Mike Colligan's always great Pensblog piece featured this, regarding Sidney Crosby on the power play:

I only know that Crosby's overpassing mentality is becoming a real problem.

His game against Detroit was tough to watch.

Is he still hurt?  Having confidence issues?  Unfortunately, Crosby earns more in a month than rookie head coach Mike Johnston does in a full season, so only Crosby will decide when (or if) he changes his game.

Pittsburgh needs him to if they want to have any chance of escaping the second round.

#9 Difficult to argue any of that, and as Majeski has said: Pittsburgh doesn't yet have a PP goal all month. Crosby needs to perform better here. Power plays often run really hot or really cold, so maybe it's just a matter of time before the Pens get a correction and start popping a few goals in. This power play seems to lack identity though. In Tampa, you know they're going to work it to Stamkos for a shot. Ditto Washington with Ovechkin in the left circle. What do the Pens have? A bunch of pretty passes but not enough determination to get the puck to the front of the net for clean-up shots, nor do they seemingly have a go-to shot selection for Evgeni Malkin or Kris Letang. In a perfect world, maybe they try to incorporate that a little more.

#10 Our weekly update on the 4-way dance in the Metro:


Since last week, the Rangers are the big movers, gaining 8 points after winning all 4 of their games, including a thrilling comeback regulation win over NYI last night. They've done all of this without the injured Henrik Lundqvist, which is very impressive for them. Based on about any stat (GP, ROW, goal differential, similar home/road record) they appear to be in the driver's seat, at least momentarily.

The fun part is it can and will quickly change again. If the Pens can beat the Caps tonight, they jump right back into a tie of first place with NYI (though the Isles would own the second tiebreaker of a better head-to-head record).

This week's biggest games in the division will be fun, since every team is involved in at least one clash. NYR/NYI didn't disappoint last night. Pens/Caps tonight. NYI/Caps play a Saturday afternoon game in DC. If you're a Penguins fan, just root for no overtime, at this point and enjoy where the jockeying sorts the clubs out for next week.

(Points earned in last 7 days- NYR: 8, NYI: 6, PGH: 5, WSH: 4)