The Pens' problems in net, dating back to last season, still loom over the team. It might take something like goalie "crisis" before the organization is finally forced to rectify the situation.
As astounding and counter-intuitive as it seems a so-called goaltending "crisis", or rather complete and fresh shakeup in net, is in order for this current team.
It’s no secret the Penguins net with Matt Murray in it has been perhaps their sole most tenuous area of play going back into last season.
What the first 2 games of this year have continued to highlight is the ever growing imperative that the Penguins right their goalie woes. And a Murray injury throwing the Pens' #1 net-minder spot up in the air is exactly the push they need to finally be forced to address the painful process of finding reliable- and most of all playoff caliber- goaltending.
That descriptor currently no longer seems to fit Matt Murray, unfortunately. Since his second Cup he’s fell into an overdue and now overlong sophomore slump that has been costly for the Penguins. All of it came to a head with a cringe-worthy spring playoff performance that cemented Murray’s troubles as here to stay for the near future.
And it's come time that the Penguins must make a move in net to rectify the situation.
The move needed is simple and unequivocal, it’s Tristan Jarry, the Pens' "goalie of the future". Jarry is the man the Penguins' tabbed as their next star goalie in the making several years ago. And his success in the AHL over the past 3 seasons, maturation in play, and NHL sample games have confirmed that the future is ready to begin now. He’s fully prepared for his shot at taking the pipes as the Penguins #1 goaltender. If at least for a extended trial basis. The only obstacle has been 2-time Cup winner Matt Murray.
With Murray still hitting the skids and now being injured too boot, it gives the Penguins the perfect opening and excuse for promoting Jarry to #1. (It's much like the same circumstances in which Murray himself took the reigns in goal from Marc-Andre Fleury).
It has to be Tristan Jarry’s net, that much is certain.
The Penguins regular #2 goalie Casey DeSmith is by all accounts on pure talent simply at his ceiling as an sparingly used NHL backup. He has performed nobly in a very limited and insulated capacity but limited is the key word there. The Penguins have sent that message of their preference themselves. They've opted to park DeSmith on the bench in the NHL without regular minutes, in favor of giving their prized prospect Tristan Jarry full time starter time in the AHL. Thus making sure to keep Jarry getting constant playing time and #1 goalie minutes. A clear sign who their priority between the two men overall really is, and as it should be.
DeSmith is a very old 2nd year NHLer at 27. (For comparison, Penguin Brian Dumoulin is also 27-years-old and is going into his 6th NHL year.) He was undrafted and comes with a relatively unspectacular pedigree of only 3 years in college hockey at New Hampshire. He in fact was mostly unnoticed in the NHL world until he came to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and carved out a niche there.
Tristan Jarry, on the other hand, projects as a #1 NHL goalie in talent. There’s simply no competition between the two men in that regard. Jarry, 23, was drafted the 2nd round of particularly skater talent heavy draft year. (The 2013 Draft, where Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, and Jonathan Drouin went #1-2-3, and no goalie was taken at all until the 2nd round.) In any other draft year, he potentially would have gone as a late 1st round pick. And he holds a stellar prospect background with a junior hockey resume of winning a CHL Memorial Cup and WHL championship. His list of accolade is filled with additional other assorted achievements at both the CHL and AHL level, too many to clutter up this space with.
Both DeSmith and Jarry have been given NHL test runs in spans sizable enough to draw some clear early conclusions from. DeSmith’s NHL record has been typical of a back-up: 6-4 with 28 goals against in 10GP. He has 356 saves, 1 shut-out, a 2.40 Goals Against Average, and .921 Save Percentage. Jarry’s sample size is larger and comparatively better for the sample size: a 14-7 record with 66 goals against in 27GP. With 712 saves, 2 shut-outs, a 2.78 Goals Against Average, and .907 Save Percentage.
The edge in all- talent, ceiling, past, and NHL performance- is undeniably and convincingly with Jarry, there’s no question there.
Where the real, long-term question mark lies is in the subject Jarry vs. Murray. A battle that is likely to play a large part in defining the Penguins’ future success.
Jarry should have his NHL shot right now and the chance to take the #1 starting goaltending role with Murray out indefinitely. The chances he fulfills that destiny seem very good by the indicators mentioned. And the Penguins desperately need Jarry to become the NHL star they predict he will be, right now. Especially in the wake of Matt Murray's continued faltering and the troubles that faltering has left a team always aiming to be playoff contenders to deal with.
The Pens need Tristan to be their new #1, top caliber NHL ‘tender to continue their quest of sustaining their immense on-ice success of the past few seasons. And they could also use Jarry becoming an NHL starting level goalie to potentially kick Matt Murray (whenever he returns to ice) back into championship gear. The same way Murray's prior competition with Marc-Andre Fleury did.
That competition and the confidence of having a co-#1 goalie ready and waiting on the bench seems to have been the magical key that opened the door to all of Matt Murray's on-ice success. In that way, Jarry excelling at this opportunity could also remedy the problem of Matt Murray’s struggles. Then Penguins would once again have the optimal option of using both goalies in co-#1 capacity much as they did with Murray & Fleury during their back-to-back Cup winning seasons.
Which is why Matt Murray’s struggles finally coming to a head in this manner and throwing the Pens net into flux could turn out to be exactly what this team needs to finally solve their net-minding woes. And there’s no more fortuitous time in the season for all this to happen then as early as Games 2 & 3. It leaves the team with the entire span of 2018-19 to allow Jarry to grow into his NHL role, Murray to heal, and let the Pens gel around their new man in net.
This all appears to once again have to have the potential to work out in such an extraordinarily favorable manner for the Penguins championship goals. It seems like we could be witnessing the prologue events that set-up a very special run for this team this year and for seasons to come.
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