The good news for the Pittsburgh Penguins is that not only were they able to beat the team (the Florida Panthers) trying to chase them in the Eastern Conference playoff race on Tuesday night, but they were also able to pull off an overtime win.
Kris Letang came back to score two goals and four points, they found some depth and were able to get two very important points in the standings.
The bad news for the Pittsburgh Penguins is that we can add a need to the shopping list. That need: a goalkeeper.
Tristan Jarry is back with an injury, and it appears to be a different injury than the one that kept him out before. That forced Casey DeSmith into a starting role against Florida, and it didn’t work out well. To be fair, he didn’t know he was starting until the absolute last minute, the Penguins did make some mistakes in front of him, and Florida does have talent, even if his record doesn’t quite reflect it this season.
But even with that combination of variables, I’m not sure they should have allowed six goals in that game. Natural Stat Trick had the Penguins expected goals at 3.9 in all situations (they allowed six) and 2.84 in 5-on-5 (where they allowed four), so take that as you will. :
Not only was it a numbers issue, but DeSmith just didn’t look good. Neither has he really at any point this season. Even when Florida wasn’t scoring, he looked out of position, looked rattled and gave up a few goals where he just looked like he was playing at an NHL level. It was bad.
He’s been fine in smaller doses throughout his career, but the more he’s forced to play, the more he seems to struggle.
Take this latest segment of games as an example. He has been forced to play in eight of the Penguins’ 11 games since the start of the new year (when Jarry was initially injured). He has an .880 save percentage during that stretch, which has gotten progressively worse with each game. Among 41 goaltenders who have played in at least five games, his .880 mark ranks 36th in the NHL.
That’s a problem when your starting goaltender, in this case Tristan Jarry, has missed a lot of time with an injury.
This brings us to one of my biggest complaints with the Ron Hextall/Brian Burke front office.
For one reason or another, scoring was the single biggest factor in the Penguins not making the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
They were the better team in each series. In my opinion, it essentially is. But because they couldn’t get any adequate goaltending, be it due to poor play or injury, they lost both series. That is the one thing that has held them back more than others.
However, they keep bringing back the same duo without making any changes.
It’s a difficult situation because when Jarry is healthy, he’s very good. And that tends to give the Penguins very strong goaltending numbers overall.
But you have to consider two things with him. 1) the only time we saw him as a primary starter in a playoff series, he completely melted down, and 2) he keeps getting hurt.
I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and more opportunities when it comes to the first point. Sometimes guys just have a bad time in the playoffs or a bad stretch of games. I want to see him get a full series when he’s fully healthy and see what he does with it.
While the second point may just be a fluke, it’s something you have to worry about when you don’t know if you can trust your backup to play for long periods of time.
Should that be added to the trade deadline shopping list? Goaltending depth?
It could be, as it’s becoming clear that the Penguins need to rely on a backup goaltender for at least an extended period of time, and DeSmith doesn’t inspire much confidence that he can give you what you need. Even if Jarry returns for the playoffs, are you comfortable going into it on the current depth chart if Jarry either struggles or gets injured? I’m not sure how.
I still agree with Jarry’s extension because again, when he’s healthy, he’s very good, and you probably won’t find a better starter on the open market for less. And forget the price, there is probably no better starting point for them.
But you can start exploring the options behind it, both now and in the future. Because this is a problem.
It might not be as big of a need as a third-line center, but it’s certainly on the list.