As you should already know by now, the NHL has made some highly desired changes to the regular season schedule format for the upcoming season. Without getting into too many specifics, it basically boils down to each team playing fewer games within their division and facing every team in the NHL at least once.
This change got me to thinking... is this a good thing for Marc-Andre Fleury and the Pittsburgh Penguins? I know the Pens have done pretty well against their Atlantic Division foes the last two years (their performance obviously boosted by going 8-0 against the Flyers in 2007-08). At the same time I would argue that the Atlantic Division is the toughest in hockey from top to bottom and the Pens should benefit from playing more outside the division. With that in mind, let's take a look at MAF's performance to get a little insight on how the new schedule might impact his performance. I am only going to use stats from the last two regular seasons as I feel Fleury's play before that doesn't relate much to the upcoming season based both on MAF's improvement and the team in front of him.
- vs. Atlantic Division: 44 GP, 26-13-5, 2.51 GAA, .916 SV%, 3 SO
- vs. rest of Eastern Conference: 45 GP, 24-10-6, 2.86 GAA, .907 SV%, 6 SO
- vs. Western Conference: 13 GP, 9-3-0, 2.91 GAA, .904 SV%, 0 SO
The bottom line for me is this; the Penguins are one of the best teams (if not the best team) in the Eastern Conference. That means that they should be successful regardless of the opposition. Having said that, I think more games out of the Atlantic Division will only be a good thing for the Pens and Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury's stats may take a bit of a hit as he takes on more teams that he is not used to seeing, but at the end of the day the win total is the only stat I care about, and MAF's total there should be just fine.