Friday, 28 April 2017

Making A Case

While we're still a long way from deciding who will win the Stanley Cup, there's always chatter about who is making a case for the Conn Smythe Trophy. We've seen some impressive efforts from players thus far as Zack Kassian was instrumental in helping Edmonton beat San Jose, Bobby Ryan found his old self in helping Ottawa get past Boston, and Jake Guentzel had a breakout series for the Penguins against Columbus. However, for as good as those three were in the opening round, the second round is proving once more that great goaltending will carry a team further than a goal scorer will. Case in point? Last night's effort by Marc-Andre Fleury.

The image above is a snapshot of the scrambling he did to preserve the 3-2 victory in Game One over Washington, especially near the three-minute mark. Let's jump back to that time and check the effort that Fleury laid down.
That's insanity. You might be saying, "Teebz, you're a Penguins fan, so this is biased," and you might be right. Cam Talbot in Edmonton is having a whale of a playoffs as well, and that Pekka Rinne guy sure looks good. However, Pittsburgh has needed good goaltending at times due to how they play in their own zone. Fleury is facing a playoffs-high 38 shots per night - three more per game than second-place New York - and is third in save percentage among goalies in the second round. Without Fleury playing as well as he is, this Penguins team may not have made it out of the opening round.

No one is suggesting that the race for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP is anywhere close to being decided. Again, Talbot and Rinne have been excellent for their teams, and there are players who are heating up for their respective teams. The question is which player has had the biggest impact in getting his team to the holy grail. Arguably, Fleury has been the Penguins' best player to date, but we're only five wins into the Penguins' playoff run.

There's a ton of hockey to be played, but Fleury is showing why GM Jim Rutherford wasn't entertaining offers for the netminder at the deadline. I'd say his faith in Fleury is being rewarded nicely.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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