Scott Cullen checks in on the falling Maple Leafs, fading Pittsburgh Penguins and notes and stats on Nyquist, Palat, Iginla, Cammalleri, Giordano and Jarnkrok. . FALLING LEAFS To say this has been a roller-coaster season for the Toronto Maple Leafs means that one is paying closer attention to the standings (the wins and losses therein) than they are the underlying statistics because the underlying statistics for the Maple Leafs have held pretty consistently all year long. Their Fenwick Close (measuring unblocked shot attempts when the game is within one goal in the first two periods and tied in the third period) has been below 43% since October 19. At 41.6% for the season, they rank ahead of only the Buffalo Sabres in this puck possession metric. Fighting that uphill possession struggle night after night, the Maple Leafs still managed to sit in playoff position for a good portion of the season for two reasons. First, goaltender Jonathan Bernier has been excellent, probably even better-than-advertised when they acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings last summer; his .925 save percentage ranks third (behind Tuukka Rask and Ben Bishop) among goaltenders with at least 35 starts this season. So, yes, outstanding goaltending can help thwart the puck possession monster, but thats a risky proposition because goaltending performance tends to vary so wildly. Take Berniers partner in the crease, James Reimer, for example. This year, thanks to his recent run of poor outings, Reimers save percentage has dipped to .908, below average for an NHL goaltender. Last year, it was .924; the year before that, .900 and, as a rookie in 2010-2011, .921. Over those four years, Reimers save percentage sits at .914, which is good enough to be an NHL starter, but the fluctuations in save percentage are standard for most at the position, making it a dicey proposition to bank on winning that battle of percentages when the alternative, having a successful possession team, allows much more leeway for the unpredictable nature of the position. So, the goaltending has helped the Leafs, thats no secret. The other factor that has played a big part in the Leafs bid for a playoff spot this season has been success in the shootout. Despite not reaching a shootout since January 15, the Leafs are tied for second in the league with nine shootout wins; their 9-4 (.692) shootout record standing behind St. Louis (8-3), Pittsburgh and Columbus (both 5-2) in terms of winning percentage. This matters because shootouts are essentially a coin-flip exercise so, for one thing, its not sustainable to do especially well (or especially poorly) and -- as Ive referenced to those who have railed against where the Leafs sit in my Power Rankings -- there is no correlation to shootout results and a teams ability to win a (theoretical) seven-game series. The point of all this isnt to pile on the Leafs when they are hitting a rough patch at a critical time; its more to note that the perception of this team has been affected by strong goaltending and shootout success. A team that sits 29th in Fenwick close needs incredibly, perhaps impossibly, good fortune when it comes to the percentages to not be a disaster and, thanks to above-average goaltending, the Maple Leafs have managed to hold a playoff spot for much of the season. With time running out to earn a playoff spot this season, however, its terribly ungrateful to now set sights on goaltending as the cause for this teams troubles. The issues run deeper and have been running that way virtually all season. PENGUINS FADING Lest we pretend that the Maple Leafs are the only team having trouble when it comes to advanced metrics, lets look higher up the standings at a Pittsburgh Penguins team that has been on a gradual, but steady, decline since Christmas. While Pittsburghs record is 19-10-4 in that span, their Fenwick Close has declined from 54% to 50.2%, the kind of dip that reveals cracks beneath the surface of that 19-10-4 record. Its not as though this is wholly mysterious. The Penguins have endured significant injuries, losing players like James Neal, Pascal Dupuis, Kris Letang and Paul Martin for more than 20 games apiece. Its understandable to have performance fall off for a team missing quality players for large chunks of the season, but there are other issues at play too. The Penguins bottom six forwards have been getting destroyed in terms of puck possession and while some of that is a matter of how teams deploy their talent (starting more shifts in the defensive zone makes it harder to generate positive possession stats), the Penguins player usage chart also shows that their defence is in trouble without Martin and Letang to aid in the puck-moving effort. Matt Niskanen and rookie Olli Maatta are above break-even and Simon Despres has relatively strong possession stats in the 17 games that he has played this season, but Robert Bortuzzo, Brooks Orpik, Deryk Engelland and Rob Scuderi are all under 47% Corsi and thats a hard way for a team to remain near the top of the standings. In the Penguins case, they can out-perform possession numbers, to some degree, because they have rare elite forward talent in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, driving the offence. With Malkin out, perhaps for the rest of the regular season, thats putting a heavy load on Crosbys shoulders. That means the likes of Brandon Sutter, Marcel Goc and perhaps a soon-returning Beau Bennett have to take responsibility for improving the play of Pittsburghs bottom six forwards. For much of the season, it appeared to be a two-team race in the Eastern Conference, but its pretty clear now that the Boston Bruins are ahead of the fading Penguins and now Pittsburgh needs to get healthy and playing better in a hurry if theyre not going to be a vulnerable favourite in round one of the playoffs. MOTHER GOOSE When the Detroit Red Wings opened the 2013-2014 season against the Buffalo Sabres, their opening night lineup included Todd Bertuzzi, Dan Cleary, Cory Emmerton, Drew Miller, Mikael Samuelsson and Stephen Weiss. Tomas Tatar was a healthy scratch. Sent to the AHL, because he didnt need to clear waivers (like Tatar or Joakim Andersson), was LW Gustav Nyquist, the hottest goal-scorer in the league who has 20 goals and 12 assists in the past 25 games. Nyquist, a fourth-round pick in 2008, was a star at the University of Maine, scoring 144 points in 113 games, then adding 122 points in 122 career AHL games before this season. He had 13 points in 40 NHL games over the past two seasons, in limited ice time, so he had shown that he could play and deserved a real opportunity. This year, in total, Nyquist has put up 25 goals and 17 assists in 47 games and while hes obviously been experiencing good luck (a shooting percentage of 19.2% isnt sustainable long-term), Nyquist is also doing the kinds of things that portend to future point production. While facing high-quality opposition, Nyquist is generating positive puck possession numbers and his shots/60 minutes of 5-on-5 play ranks 38th (among players to play at least 500 minutes), just ahead of Taylor Hall and Bobby Ryan. This isnt to say that Nyquist is a surefire star, based on a third of one NHL season, but hes established that he can score in the league and, even when his percentages come back to earth, he can be a top six or potentially top line winger. BURNING BRIGHT Its been a tough season for the Calgary Flames, but that hasnt meant that everything has gone poorly. A few veteran Flames, for instance, have enjoyed productive years. Defenceman Mark Giordano has put up monster possession numbers and has tied his career-high with 43 points, despite playing in only 54 games. If not for missing 18 games earlier in the season due to a lower body injury, Giordano could be in the Norris Trophy discussion. While its no surprise that Giordano, signed to a reasonable contract, would remain with the Flames through this rebuilding process, there was pretty much shock when LW Mike Cammalleri wasnt moved at the trade deadline. Heading towards unrestricted free agency, 31-year-old Cammalleri made sense as a rental for a playoff team needing a scoring boost, but his late-season scoring has been working for the Flames. In 11 games since the trade deadline, Cammalleri has nine goals and six assists and hes continued, for the most part, to put up solid possession stats. Cammalleris up to 23 goals on the season, his most since 2009-2010, despite playing only 55 games; production that will get him paid this summer, even if its at a rate below the $6-million per season that hes commanding on his current contract. STILL GOT IT There was a time this season, through say the beginning of December, that is looked like Bruins RW Jarome Iginla might be nearing the end of the line. The ever-reliable veteran had five goals and 11 assists in 29 games, while playing on the Bruins No. 1 scoring unit. Maybe it simply took him time to adjust to new linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic -- a line that coach Claude Julien virtually never tinkers with -- but Iginla has been on a good run since, scoring 23 goals and 19 assists in 43 games. Like many Bruins, Iginlas puck possession stats are strong, but Iginlas riding a bit of good luck too, as he, Krejci and Lucic are among those with the highest PDO (5-on-5 shooting plus save percentage -- which serves, generally, as an indicator of luck) in the league. Luck or not, Iginlas recent run has pushed him to 28 goals, a total that he has hit in every full year that hes played (excluding last years lockout-shortened season) since 1997-1998. ONDREJ THE GIANT When it was looking like Lightning C Tyler Johnson might be pushing for the Calder Trophy as top rookie, competing with Avalanche C Nathan MacKinnon, another Tampa Bay forward inserted himself into the discussion. Since the trade deadline, LW Ondrej Palat has scored five goals and nine assists in 10 games, playing more than 21 minutes in six of them. He has spent the bulk of his time on a line with Valtteri Filppula and newcomer Ryan Callahan and rarely gets power play time. There is good fortune at play, as Palat is on the high-end in both on-ice shooting percentage (10.3%) and save percentage (.940), but he also deserves credit for earning his production at even-strength. Palats 35 5-on-5 points ties him with 10 others for 28th in the league. Not bad for a seventh-round pick out of Drummondville in the QMJHL, as a 19-year-old, in 2011. Palat currently ranks seventh in that draft class with 55 NHL points. GOING BACK TO CALLE While its understandable that the Detroit Red Wings wanted immediate help, in the form of veteran C David Legwand, and felt emboldened by the play of their AHL call-ups this season, including Nyquist, Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan, they may soon regret sending Calle Jarnkrok to the Nashville Predators in that trade. A second-round pick in 2010, Jarnkrok got off to a slow start in his first AHL season, scoring 17 points in 41 games through January 18. At that point, the numbers started falling into place for Jarnkrok and he scored 26 points (8 G, 18 A), with a plus-9 rating, in 21 AHL games before the Predators promoted him. Skating on a line with Gabriel Bourque and Craig Smith, Jarnkrok has started his NHL career with three assists in three games. Of course this is a super-early assessment, but hes not getting beaten in the advanced stats either, posting positive possession numbers with balanced zone starts. For a team like Nashville, that needs more skill up front, their acquisitions in the past two trade deadlines -- Jarnkrok and Filip Fosberg -- could become major pieces in their attack going forward. And, for the Red Wings, even with all the great contributions they are getting from young players this season, they may soon rue the day they surrendered Jarnkrok. Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. . Forsman closed with a 3-under 69 in windy conditions Sunday for his third Champions Tour title. He beat Jay Don Blake by two shots. . -- The Minnesota Twins have granted relief pitcher Matt Guerrier his unconditional release, making the 35-year-old right-hander a free agent.The Toronto Raptors are Atlantic Division champions, but there is still playoff positioning at stake Sunday afternoon when they visit The Palace of Auburn Hills to meet the Detroit Pistons. Catch the game on TSN and TSN Radio 1050 in Toronto starting at 3:30pm et/12:30pm pt. The Raptors clinched the franchises second Atlantic Division title, despite a home loss to the New York Knicks on Friday night. When the Brooklyn Nets lost to the Atlanta Hawks the same night, the Raptors sealed up the division for the first time since the 2006-07 season. "Were still anxious," said DeMar DeRozan. "We still want more. Were not satisfied with nothing. We understand we have much more basketball to play and a long road to go and we want to take advantage of it, not just get there and say we got there, where people doubted us. We definitely feel like we can go in and make some noise." Toronto fell a game behind the Chicago Bulls in pursuit of the third seed in the Eastern Conference. If the Raptors are victorious today they will tie the franchise record for wins in a season. They won 47 games in 2000-01 and matched that in 2006-07. DeRozan paced the Raptors with 26 points against the Knicks. Kyle Lowry tallied 25 and Jonas Valanciunas ddropped in 14 points with a career-high 21 rebounds. . "It sucks that we lost the game, but it feels great to win the division," said DeRozan. The Pistons have lost two straight since a two-game winning streak. On Friday, Detroit blew an 18-point halftime lead and fell, 106-98, to the Bulls at the United Center. "You play the Bulls, and especially in this building, you know its going to be a 48-minute war," Pistons coach John Loyer said. "Whether youre up 18 or down whatever, youre going to have to come in here and compete. That team competes on every possession. You cant take your foot off the pedal for a second." Andre Drummond registered 26 points and 26 rebounds for the Pistons. He matched a career-high with the 26 rebounds after he grabbed that many in a March game against the Knicks. Rodney Stuckey added 22 points in defeat, while Brandon Jennings netted 17 and Peyton Siva chipped in 12 off the bench. Detroit will close the regular season Wednesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Raptors have won both matchups this season, although both contests were in Toronto. Detroit has taken four of the last five as the host in this series. ' ' '