Marc-Andre Fleury: Mediocre Goalie With Undeserved Reputation

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 13: Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins reacts after giving up a goal in the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Penguins 7-5. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

If you followed the Copper & Blue Twitter feed, you've seen astonishment in reaction to various Pittsburgh sports writers' narratives during the Flyers series. Those sports writers (and the CBC panel) have laid blame on everyone and everything except Marc-Andre Fleury. Even in the face of Fleury's all-time awful playoff performance (worst save percentage in 12 years), sports writers blamed the defense, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Dan Bylsma and Dan Bylsma's system. Pittsburgh fans followed suit.

Why? Well, Fleury's Pittsburgh Penguins won a Stanley Cup in 2009 and because of that, Fleury has a reputation as "...perhaps the NHL's most underrated player and the best big game goalie in hockey." In 2009, Fleury's save percentage was .9082, good for 11th amongst post-season goaltenders. His even-strength save percentage was .9144, good for 11th that playoff year. In fact, Fleury's career save percentage in the playoffs is .9043, which ranks 40th out of 55 playoff goaltenders since the lockout.

The Penguins have made the playoffs each year since 2006-07, and in that time, Fleury's rankings in total playoff save percentage are as follows: 18-2-11-15-14-16. His rankings in even-strength save percentage are similar: 14-4-11-16-14-15. As a reminder, 16 teams make the NHL playoffs.

Fleury's playoff career is marked by well-below-average results - only once, in 2007-08, has Fleury been better than .910 in total save percentage and .920 even-strength save percentage. The "best big game goalie in hockey" is just bad in the playoffs. What other "big games" are there?

Click to enlarge the graph

Fleury_stinks_medium

The regular season is more of the same. Since the lockout, the combined even strength save percentage of all goaltenders is .9188. The combined even strength save percentage of qualifying goaltenders (25 GP or more) is .9201. Fleury's post-lockout save percentage is .9188, in line with the average for all goaltenders, below average for qualifying goaltenders. In the graph above, note that Fleury's results against the blue line (all goaltenders) and the red line (qualifying goaltenders).

Over the last two seasons, Fleury's combined even strength save percentage is .9201, compare that to the league average of .9208 or league average for qualifying seasons over the same time span - .9218. Fleury is below average over this time.

Yet TSN reporter Darren Dreger said on Twitter that Fleury would be #1 on his ballot if he had a vote for the Vezina in 2012. Dreger remarked that Fleury carried the Penguins in Crosby's absence. The truth is that Fleury ranked 28th of 45 goaltenders in 2011-12 in total save percentage and 35th of 45 in even-strength save percentage. The Penguins were 1st in goals for, 1st in shots for, and 4th in shots against. It wasn't Fleury who carried the Penguins, it was team offense and defense. It's always the same with the Penguins.

Over the last two seasons, 37 goaltenders have two qualifying seasons - Fleury ranks 27th in even strength save percentage.

Fleury trails Tim Thomas, Henrik Lundqvist, Cory Schneider, Roberto Luongo, Pekka Rinne, Niklas Backstrom, Antti Niemi, Jonathan Quick, Kari Lehtonen, Ilya Bryzgalov, James Reimer, Jaroslav Halak, Semyon Varlamov, Carey Price, Devan Dubnyk, Jose Theodore, Cam Ward, Ryan Miller, Tomas Vokoun, Miikka Kiprusoff, Ondrej Pavelec, Jonas Hiller, Jimmy Howard, Sergei Bobrovsky

Fleury has been better than Scott Clemmensen, Corey Crawford, Johan Hedberg, Craig Anderson, Brian Elliott, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Michal Neuvirth, Dwayne Roloson, Martin Brodeur, Steve Mason, Mathieu Garon, and Nikolai Khabibulin.

The combined salary cap hit of Fleury's three closest comps over that time - Scott Clemmensen, Corey Crawford and Johan Hedberg - is $5,116,667, just $116,667 more than Fleury's cap hit, and Fleury has three years left on his current deal.

Marc-Andre Fleury once won a Stanley Cup playing behind a juggernaut. For that, he has a reputation he does not deserve.

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