Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2018-19 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.
As the the Tampa Bay Lightning hold a 16-point lead on the San Jose Sharks with 12 games remaining, the Presidents’ Trophy is just about locked up. An historic regular season could be added to should they win a majority of the rest of their schedule.
After the Presidents’ Trophy, next in the Lightning’s sights is the 62-win feat achieved by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings. It’s fitting that Tampa is in Detroit tonight, looking to win their 54th game of the season, which would tie a franchise record. There is also the monstrous challenge of earning 23 of 24 points to close out the season to set an NHL record for most points in a season (132), which is currently held by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens.
But the challenge of winning 10 of their final 12 games to top that Red Wings team will also serve as a test. Thursday’s game in Detroit is only one of two games remaining for the Lightning that come against teams out of the Stanley Cup playoff picture (They play Ottawa on April 1).
“I think if we get to 59, maybe we’ll start talking about it,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper via the Tampa Bay Times. “But we’re not talking about it right now.”
Since Tampa is firmly in the top spot in the Atlantic Division and will have home ice throughout the playoffs, at what point does Cooper begin resting players like goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who’s started 44 games, and not worry about history? Presidents’ Trophy winning teams already don’t have the greatest of luck in the postseason. Of the 32 times its been awarded, only eight teams have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. Only 11 have even been able to reached the Cup Final. There’s the target on your back aspect and the pressure that comes with being the NHL’s best regular season team.
What the Lightning have done this season — especially as a contender for the last few years — has made it Stanley Cup or bust in 2019. Two Eastern Conference Final disappointments to the eventual Cup champion in the last three seasons hasn’t sat well with them. The only history that should be on their minds is adding a second championship come June.
IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY Lightning vs. Blue Jackets
Capitals vs. Hurricanes
Islanders vs. Penguins
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs
Sharks vs. Coyotes
Jets vs. Stars
Flames vs. Golden Knights
Predators vs. Blues
TODAY’S CLINCHING SCENARIOS The Sharks can clinch a playoff berth in one of two ways:
• If they beat the Panthers and the Wild lose in regulation to the Stars.
• If they beat Florida and the Wild get one point against Dallas and the Coyotes lose in regulation against the Ducks in regulation.
TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS Penguins at Sabres, 7 p.m. ET
Canadiens at Islanders, 7 p.m. ET
Capitals at Flyers, 7 p.m. ET
Blues at Senators, 7:30 p.m. ET
Lightning at Red Wings, 7:30 p.m. ET
Stars at Wild, 8 p.m. ET
Bruins at Jets, 8 p.m. ET
Ducks at Coyotes, 10 p.m. ET
Predators at Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET
Panthers at Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET
PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference) Lightning – In
Bruins – 100 percent
Maple Leafs – 99.7 percent
Capitals – 98.8 percent
Islanders – 98.5 percent
Penguins – 95 percent
Hurricanes – 89.7 percent
Blue Jackets – 59.6 percent
Canadiens – 49.9 percent
Flyers – 8.1 percent
Panthers – 0.6 percent
Sabres – 0.1 percent
Rangers – 0 percent
Devils – Out
Red Wings – Out
Senators – Out
There are two big points on the line Thursday night in Minnesota when the Wild host the Dallas Stars. Both are pursuing playoff spots in the Western Conference, but the Wild will face a tall task in trying to score on Ben Bishop, who’s been unbeatable of late.
Bishop has shutouts in each of his last three starts and hasn’t surrendered a goal since late in the second period of the Stars’ March 2 win over the St. Louis Blues. His shutout streak is currently 204:20, the second-longest in franchise history behind Eddie Belfour’s 219:26, which was set in 2000. He’s also the third goaltender in franchise history to record three straight shutouts, joining Belfour’s 2000 run and Cesare Maniago who did it in 1967.
“It’s just one of those things,” Bishop said after Tuesday’s win Buffalo. “I’ll take it. The wins are what’s important. Obviously the shutouts are nice but it’s not why we play the game. The guys are doing a great job in front of me, big blocks at important times, big penalty kills, and then a couple of posts. Things are going my way right now, just try to ride the high as long you can.”
Bishop’s play has NBCSN’s own Brian Boucher, who owns the NHL record for longest shutout streak at 332:01, a little nervous:
What this run for Bishop has also done is move the 32-year-old netminder into the Vezina Trophy discussion. He’s now tied for second in the league with six shutouts, tied for first among goaltenders with 35 appearances with a .935 even strength save percentage, and tied for third among goaltenders with 1,500 minutes played with a .869 high-danger save percentage (via Natural Stat Trick).
Another stat for Bishop’s Vezina resume? He’s third in the league with a plus-15.32 goals saved above average, which measures how many goals a goaltender has saved compared to a league-average netminder.
“There’s just a calmness to him, of when he’s stopping pucks and when he’s handling pucks, that you know when he’s really on top of his game,” said Stars head coach Jim Montgomery.
After falling short as a finalist in 2014 and 2016, could 2019 be Bishop’s year to take home hardware? At the moment, there are a good number of contenders with Frederik Andersen, Marc-Andre Fleury, Robin Lehner, and Andrei Vasilevskiy as some of the names in the mix. It will have to come down to who impressed the league’s 31 general managers the most when it’s time to vote.
Despite his number of games played, will Jordan Binnington garner enough support to win the Calder Trophy?
SEAN: It’s going to be hard to unseat Elias Pettersson as winner for rookie of the years, but certainly Binningon can make a challenge. He’ll likely get around 10 starts the rest of the regular season, putting him in 30 games player territory.
Only four goaltenders have won the award in the last 25 years with Martin Brodeur playing 47 games in 1994, the fewest of any netminder who took home the Calder. Binnington leads all goalies with at least 20 starts in even strength save percentage (.941) and is tied for third in the NHL with five shutouts. That’s all quite good for a guy who wasn’t a regular until Jan. 7.
But when the PHWA submit their ballots, Binnington likely won’t pass Pettersson for the award, but he definitely deserves a trip to Vegas in late June as one of the 2018-19 Calder finalists.
JAMES: The gap is simply too large between Elias Pettersson and everyone else, but I wonder if Binnington’s fantastic season might spark up some conversations about getting more Calder attention for non-forwards in the future.
In a slower season (like, say, when Nail Yakupov won a Calder), Binnington would be getting far more consideration, and Rasmus Dahlin or Miro Heiskanen would also get more hype. When it comes to the main awards, people often sequester goalies to the Vezina and skaters to the Hart, barring a truly transcendent season from a netminder. The Calder doesn’t allow such latitude, and I wonder if we may gradually change the way we measure different accomplishments.
It’s far too easy to dismiss just how enormous an impact Binnington’s made. He’s won 16 games despite being limited to just 20 starts (and 22 games played), which almost feels like it should be impossible. Pettersson’s special, and should probably be a unanimous choice (don’t get weird about it, Buffalo/Dallas/St. Louis beat writers), but Binnington saved the Blues’ season.
JOEY: I just don’t see it happening. Binnington has been terrific since taking over between the pipes for the Blues, but the fact that he’ll likely play in just over 30 games means that he can’t overtake Canucks forward Elias Pettersson in the race for the Calder Trophy. Pettersson has slowed down a bit, but he’s still a point-per-game player in his first season. What Binnington has done definitely puts him in the mix, it just doesn’t put him over the top. He probably won’t mind falling short in this race considering his team will be playing meaningful games in April. The 25-year-old’s short tenure in the NHL has been a huge success regardless of whether or not he’s named rookie of the year.
ADAM: In any other year where there wasn’t a clear cut favorite that played in significantly more games I would say yes, because he has been that good and has quite literally been the savior of the Blues’ season. Okay, maybe not the savior, but definitely one of them. I just think Elias Pettersson is so far ahead of the pack and so outstanding that it would be really tough to unseat him. Point-per-game in his first full season in the NHL, and as electrifying as he is? Definite rookie of the year for me. Binnington probably definitely gets in the top-three, but the award is Pettersson’s.
SCOTT: He should be considered, but he won’t be because of when his rookie season began. The problem comes down to this all starting in early January and not in early October or November. He’s a victim of things outside of his control, like waiting half a year to give the kid a shot.
I get it, Jake Allen was the guy. Again, it’s just nothing something Binnington could control. But he deserves to be on the ballot and deserves to win the award. Why? Because while Elias Pettersson has been great, he hasn’t single-handedly put his team into the playoffs quite like Binnington has. This raises the prospects of him garnering some Hart votes, too. Call me crazy, but in its purest form, few have been as integral to their team’s success like Mr. Winnington.
What team in the East poses the biggest threat to the Tampa Bay Lightning come playoff time?
SEAN: It’s not a big list, but you have to believe the Washington Capitals will take what they did last spring in the Eastern Conference Final and use it again against an even better Lightning team.
If they’re to meet again it will once again be in the third round where the Capitals will have likely use the same approach as Barry Trotz did a year ago. If Todd Reirden keeps the same game plan, it’s slowing down the pace and suffocating the Lightning’s stars. Tampa was blanked in Games 6 and 7 last May, unable to solve Braden Holtby.
Washington also managed to limit Tampa to only 24.8 shots per game in the seven-game series. As dangerous as their arsenal is, if they aren’t getting shots on goal, it’s hard for them to keep up their explosive offense. It’s a big challenge, but the Capitals know they can do it in a series.
JAMES: I find myself waffling between the Lightning’s likely second-round opponents: the Maple Leafs and the Bruins, a.k.a. my choices for second and third-best in the East.
It’s dangerous to imagine everything going right when it hasn’t always actually come together on the ice, but I just can’t shake the impression that Toronto has the higher ceiling.
With Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Nazem Kadri down the middle, they’re one of – maybe the only – teams that could credibly hang with the Lightning’s deadly forwards. Both the Bruins and Maple Leafs have goalie(s) who could conceivably have a better best-of-seven series than Andrei Vasilevskiy, too.
So Toronto has a shot, but it’s not outrageous to look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Lightning as the NHL’s closest answer to a Golden State Warriors-style juggernaut. Luckily for Tampa Bay’s opponents, upsets are more common in the NHL … but the Bolts remain heavy favorites to win it all.
JOEY: The Bruins have been red-hot since the start of 2019. They’ve been just as good as the Lightning and they’ve found a way to do it despite missing David Pastrnak. Boston has one of the top lines in hockey with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Pastrnak (when healthy), they have secondary scoring with Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci, Charlie Coyle and a few others, they’ve got a solid group of defensemen, and they have a great one-two punch between the pipes with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. If anyone can take down the Lightning in a seven-game series, it’s the Bruins.
ADAM: It is going to either take a great team with superstar talent all clicking at the same time, or a team with great goaltending. Or more likely a team that has both. When it comes to the latter, the Boston Bruins stand out to me as someone that could do it. They may not be able to match Tampa Bay’s offensive firepower or depth, but they have two starting caliber goalies that are both playing at an extremely high level this season. Washington is definitely a threat because of the talent they have at the top of the roster and as we saw last year if Braden Holtby gets on a roll at the right time he can change a series and a season. Then there is Pittsburgh. For as mediocre as they have looked for most of the season they still have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and presumably come playoff time, a healthy Kris Letang. Matt Murray is playing like a true No. 1 goalie again and they might be a good matchup for one another.
SCOTT: Boston. Tampa made Toronto look like a JV squad on Monday night. Boston beat them 4-1 earlier this year and lost a close 3-2 decision. Simply put, Boston has the experience and the skill to run with Tampa, and with Tuukka Rask playing as well as he is, if there’s anyone that can duel Andrei Vasilevskiy, he’s the guy to do it at the moment in the East.
Now, with that said, can any team in the East (or even the West) go toe-to-toe with the Lightning over seven games and win four of them? I’m not sure that’s possible at this point. Tampa can make the best teams look like they belong in the American Hockey League (no disrespect to the AHL, but you get the point).
Boston has the only outside shot in my opinion, and everything would have to go right.
If the Blue Jackets’ big gamble doesn’t pay off with a playoff berth, should that be the end for Jarmo Kekalainen and/or John Tortorella?
SEAN: I don’t believe there will be a cleaning of house should the Blue Jackets’ fail to either get in the playoffs or get out of the first round. I do think there will be a shortening of the leash, especially for Tortorella if that happens as we head into next season.
Kekalainen’s big moves at the deadline were one to push the franchise forward and accomplish something they’ve never done in 17 seasons: win a playoff round. It’s a big bet, but one that should be applauded next time we complain about a general manager sitting on their hands and standing pat rather than try and improve their team.
JAMES: A thought has lingered in my mind this season: what if Artemi Panarin simply wants out because of John Tortorella?
Torts is brighter than his dimmest rants would indicate, but would it be that surprising if players found him gruff and intimidating, maybe leading to embarrassments in the film and locker rooms? Tortorella’s been around forever, and as his successes become more distant in the rearview mirror, I think that missing the playoffs should probably be it for him.
That’s a sad thought from an entertaining quote standpoint, and perhaps the Blue Jackets might flinch on replacing either their coach or GM after giving bothof them extensions heading into this season. But what does it say about Columbus’ front office if they view this year as a time to go all-in and then they miss the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs altogether? Kekalainen’s been around since 2013 and Torts has been around since 2015. You have to wonder how many chances they’d need to get things right if they fall short here.
If Columbus misses, I’d move on, despite my belief that Kekalainen’s a pretty good GM.
JOEY: I really didn’t like what the Blue Jackets did at the deadline. I felt like they were in a unique situation given the contract statuses of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Adding more high-end free agents doesn’t make that situation better. If the Jackets fail to make the playoffs, I don’t think Kekalainen or Tortorella lose their jobs, but I feel like they’ll be on the hot seat going into next season. Even if they get into the postseason and lose in the first round, jobs will be on the line going into next season.
ADAM: Should it? That is a tougher question to answer than “will it?” Because if they miss the playoffs I think it would be awfully difficult for ownership to rest easy looking at this situation. You give up almost your entire draft class for rentals, you may lose some or all of them, you may lose your two best players that were already on the roster, and then you have to deal with the brutal look that is going all in as a buyer and falling on your face. But I also think that would be a knee-jerk reaction to the result more so than the process. Even if they do get in the playoffs they are probably not winning the Stanley Cup, so you are still going to be sitting there at the end of the season with no championship, no draft picks, and maybe a bunch of free agents walking out the door. If you want your GM to be aggressive and “go for it” I don’t see how you can punish him for doing just that, because he theoretically put his team in the best possible position to succeed. If it doesn’t, at that point it comes down to the coaching staff and the players themselves. Truly one of the most fascinating teams to watch down the stretch, because what they do is likely to have huge implications on what the upper management and ownership does in the summer.
SCOTT: I mean, for Kekalainen, he’d be gone as soon the word eliminated appeared beside the name of the Blue Jackets, no?
He went out, kept the two players that would have brought in a decent haul at the deadline, brought in two players who cost them most of this year’s draft and could conceivably have nothing to show for it come July 1… at least the league’s punch line (Ottawa) was able to recoup some goods when they lost everybody.
Torts goes, too. If they don’t make the playoffs and somehow manage to keep Kekalainen, then Torts takes the sword for him. If Kekalainen goes and a new general manager is hired, I assume they look at Torts in the same way — had a bunch of talent handed to him and couldn’t do anything with it. Goodbye.
It’s win or bust for both of them.
PHT Power Rankings: Capitals playing like champs again
The Washington Capitals didn’t make the biggest moves ahead of the NHL trade deadline, but they may have made the right moves.
Adding Nick Jensen and Carl Hagelin helped shore up what has been at times a shaky defensive team this season and has helped propel them back to the top of the Metropolitan Division with what is, as of Monday, a four-point lead over the New York Islanders.
They have not lost since the trade deadline, are on a seven-game winning streak, and have won nine of their past 10 games overall.
It is not just the winning that is encouraging for the Capitals this time of year that matters, it is also the way they are winning.
They are dominating.
In six games since the trade deadline the Capitals are rolling along with a 58.1 Corsi percentage (tops in the NHL), have controlled more than 56 percent of the scoring chances at even-strength (also tops in the NHL), and have outscored teams by a 24-10 margin. No, they have not really played a collection of the league’s strongest teams since then, but you can only play the team that is lined up across from you and if you are a true contender you are supposed to dominate the lower-tier teams. The Capitals have been doing all of that and more.
With the superstar talent they still have throughout the lineup playing the way it is (Alex Ovechkin might score 55 goals as a 33-year-old!), a goalie that is capable of getting hot and carrying the team at any time, and the necessary tweaks made at the trade deadline they are going to have a real shot to make another run at the Stanley Cup.
They make the top-four in this week’s PHT Power Rankings.
Where does everyone else fit?
To the rankings!
1. Tampa Bay Lightning — Not even sure they have played their best hockey as of late and they are still 13-2-0 over their past 15 games entering the week. The numbers around this team, and their top playerNikita Kucherov, are just comical.
2. Boston Bruins — Depth was always a concern, and it seemed like it was going to be a big issue as even more injuries started to mount, but they just keep on winning, collecting points, and very quietly have the second best record in the NHL. Maybe Bruce Cassidy should be in that coach of the year discussion, too?
3. San Jose Sharks — Even without Erik Karlsson or above average goaltending they just keep on rolling. This is going to be a scary team if Martin Jones is even average for them in the playoffs.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs — The NHL’s playoff format has been the same for several years now, and every year a couple of top-five teams meet in the first or second round and one of them gets sent home earlier than maybe they otherwise deserve. Is it ideal? No. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Has there been any kind of a huge push to change it? A little but, but nothing fierce enough to make it happen. But if Toronto gets bounced in the first round to Boston again? Oh man, you can be sure there will be a lot more noise about it.
6. Calgary Flames — The Sharks and the Flames might be the two best teams in the Western Conference and they might have the shakiest goaltending situation of any team that makes the playoffs.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins —Sidney Crosby has played his way back into the MVP discussion. He is probably not going to win it over Kucherov, but he should at least be a finalist with the way he has dominated this season. Especially over the past few weeks.
8. Winnipeg Jets — Been saying this for a while now, but the play on the ice does not seem to match the record. This team has more to offer.
9. New York Islanders — Everything about the way they have actually played this season has pointed to an eventual regression. Not saying it is definitely happening now, but only four wins in their previous 10 games is not ideal, especially at this time of year.
10. Carolina Hurricanes — They are not even a lock to make the playoffs, but you have to love the way they are playing right now with a 22-7-1 record since Dec. 31. They are young, fast, fun, and could prove to be a real headache … if they get in.
12. Vegas Golden Knights — Mark Stone has been a huge addition but they will only go as far as Marc-Andre Fleury will allow them to go. His boom-or-bust season makes them a total wild card in the West.
13. Nashville Predators — As of Monday they have not won a game in regulation or overtime since Feb. 21. Their only three wins during that stretch all came in a shootout. Not exactly the sign of a team that is playing great, and kind of underwhelming (at least for now) after their big trade deadline additions.
14. Minnesota Wild — A truly bizarre season in Minnesota. It would be an amazing story if they ended up making the playoffs after going into a sellers mode at the trade deadline. Before their ugly loss to Florida over the weekend (the second half of a back-to-back) they had collected at least a point in eight consecutive games.
15. Arizona Coyotes — If this team ends up making the playoffs it might be enough for Rick Tocchet to take the Jack Adams Award away from Barry Trotz.
16. Dallas Stars —Ben Bishop is quietly putting together a pretty dominant season for the Stars with a .930 save percentage, good enough for second best in the league just behind Andrei Vasilevskiy.
17. Columbus Blue Jackets — I had high expectations for this team after the trade deadline but, as of now, things have not gone according to plan. At all. Their remaining schedule is also pretty tough with a couple of sets of back-to-backs, three games against Boston and then two more against the Predators.
18. Montreal Canadiens — The Canadiens have had some brutal late-season collapses in recent years, and with only five wins in their past 14 games it is worth wondering if it might be happening again.
19. Philadelphia Flyers — Their record under Scott Gordon has been good, but I’m not sure how much that has to do with him and how much of it has to do with the goaltending situation finally getting secured with Carter Hart.
21. Buffalo Sabres — I know you can’t just take away a 10-game winning streak, but that streak was always a fluke and their entire season outside of that has simply been more of the same old Sabres.
22. Chicago Blackhawks — They still have the forwards to compete, but the defense is as bad as we have seen in the NHL in more than a decade.
23. Edmonton Oilers — They did win four games in a row, but three of those wins came against Ottawa, Buffalo, and Vancouver. They are in the process of not only wasting what will probably be a 110-point season from Connor McDavid, but what might be a 50-goal season from Leon Draisaitl. Truly stunning numbers.
24. Anaheim Ducks — Hopefully getting a chance to see his team from behind the bench will tell Bob Murray just how mediocre the whole thing has become and get him to make the necessary changes this summer.
25. Florida Panthers — They have had 22 games (pretty much one third of their schedule) go to overtime or a shootout this season, which is just an insane number. That is really no way to be a competitive team on a consistent basis with so many of your games basically coming down to a coin flip.
26. New York Rangers — They only have two wins since Feb. 20, both of them coming against a Devils team that can barely put a full roster on the ice right now.
27. Vancouver Canucks — Remember when the Canucks seemed to be “ahead of schedule” in their rebuild? They might win 33 or 34 games this season instead of the 30 or 31 they have been winning the past few years, and they still have the fewest wins in the NHL since the start of the 2015-16 season (excluding Vegas, who is only in its second season). Even worse, they are once again in a position where their odds of landing the top pick in the draft are not all that high.
28. New Jersey Devils — Injuries and trades have just decimated this roster to the point where it barely resembles an NHL team right now.
29. Detroit Red Wings — Probably the best thing that has happened over the past few weeks is getting their first glimpse at first-round draft pick Filip Zadina, who scored his first NHL goal. His development will play a big role in where this rebuild goes.
30. Los Angeles Kings — There can be no shortcuts or quick fixes here, they need a massive overhaul this offseason because this roster as currently constructed does not really have anything going for it.
31. Ottawa Senators — All of this losing is a big win for the Avalanche, who own their 2019 first-round draft pick.
Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was named the NHL’s No. 1 star of the week on Monday after recording back-to-back shutouts in his past two starts, bringing his season total to a league-leading eight shutouts. It is an impressive number when you consider nobody else in the league has more than six, and only one player (Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy) has more than five.
When combined with his league-leading win total, as well as the fact he plays for a prominent team in the Western Conference playoff race, one that was just in the Stanley Cup Final a year ago, there is almost certainly going to be some kind of a Vezina Trophy push for him.
But the NHL’s general managers, who are tasked with voting for the Vezina, have not typically given Fleury much attention throughout his career. What stands out about his 2018-19 season so far is that it is in a lot of ways a perfect representation of his career as a whole.
It has featured some incredible highs, and also some incredible lows.
The simplest way to put it is like this — your opinion of Fleury as a Vezina candidate says a lot about what you look for in a goalie; or perhaps more accurately, the way you evaluate a goaltender’s performance in the NHL.
Fleury has always been a goalie that tends to appeal to a large group of fans and analysts because his game has flash to it. You don’t need to understand the finer points or the technical details of the position to appreciate watching him play. He will make the saves and make the plays that show up on highlight reels because he is a freakish athlete, has incredible quickness, and is never truly “out” of any play. He can make any save on any shot.
When everything clicks together at the same time he is capable of looking unbeatable.
When it does not all work together, it can look ugly. Very ugly.
With Fleury’s 2018-19 performance you see a lot of wins, and that will no doubt appeal to the “wins are the only thing that matters” subset of the hockey community.
But folks, it is 2019. We should be well beyond using wins to evaluate goaltending play because a lot of it (not all of it, but a lot of it) is team dependent.
That win total for Fleury is mostly the result of playing for a pretty good team that gives him some decent goal support, and also appearing in more games than any other goalie in the league.
Even if you go with the mindset that “winning is the only stat the matters,” his winning percentage of .571 is tied for fifth among goalies who have appeared in at least 40 games. If you dig down to goalies that have appeared in at least 30 games, it drops down to a tie for eighth.
Again: The current win total is about volume, not necessarily about consistent, dominant play.
But then you see the eight shutouts and probably of think that as an example of the dominance. And to a point, it is. Eight shutouts in a season is a lot. It is even more impressive when it happens in only 56 games, and it shows just how good he is capable of being when he is at his best.
What should stand out about that number, however, is the fact that he has eight shutouts and still only has a .911 save percentage for the season, a mark that is just barely above the league average. It is, quite literally, the middle of the pack among NHL goalies. It almost seems impossible to believe that a goalie with eight shutouts in a season can only have a league average season percentage. You would think they would be dominant.
Of the eight goalies who have recorded at least four shutouts this season, five of them have a save percentage of at least .924. The only three that do not are Fleury, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Mikko Koskinen. Going back even further, in the history of the league there have only been eight instances where a goalie had at least eight shutouts in a season and still finished with a save percentage of .911 or worse, and a few of those came during eras where goal-scoring was significantly higher and save percentages were routinely lower than they are today.
What this should tell us is that while Fleury has been prone to the occasional dominant performance this season, he has also had several games where it just has not been there for him and he his play has totally collapsed on itself. Look no further than the fact he has already had 20 games this season where he has faced at least 15 shots and recorded a save percentage of .890 or worse.
That is tied (with Bobrovsky) for the most in the league. Now, that total (like the win total) is also largely due to the number of games he has actually played. More games means more opportunity to mess up. But that is still close to 36 percent of his starts where he has pretty much given his team no chance to win. The league average for that number is around 29 percent, and if you look at that goalies that have a higher percentage it is a list of goalies that are having pretty awful years.
(Keep in mind, when goalies face at least 15 shots and have a save percentage of .890 or less this season their teams have only won 15 percent of those games.)
All of this means that on any given night Vegas is either getting one of the best goalies in league, or one of the worst. There is very rarely any sort of middle ground with him.
This is what makes Vegas a total mystery when it comes to the playoffs, because their success will depend almost entirely on which version of Marc-Andre Fleury they get over any best-of-seven series. If it is the one that has the eight shutouts, they could beat any team. If it is the one that has self destructed and in more than 35 percent of his starts they will be done in round one.
Based on the way this season — and almost his entire career to this point — has gone it is going to be anybody’s guess as to which version shows up.