After the Penguins went all-in on Tristan Jarry as their goaltender of the future, the 26-year-old has had two rough starts to begin the 2020-21 season. He lasted the entire game during Wednesday’s season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers, but did allow five goals on 25 shots in a 5-3 loss. Friday night didn’t get any better as he allowed three goals on six shots, forcing the Penguins to make a change. To say that alarm bells are sounding in Pittsburgh would be an unnecessary overstatement. Still, cause for concern fits.
Making matters worse, is that both losses come at the hands of a historical and bitter state rival, the Philadelphia Flyers. For hockey fans in Pennsylvania there is no bigger rivalry, and the outcome of any game is bragging rights until the next match – which will be another back-to-back on March 1st and 2nd in Pittsburgh (schedule pending, of course).
Backup Casey DeSmith
One positive for the Penguins from Friday was the play of backup goaltender, Casey DeSmith. The 29-year-old from Rochester, New Hampshire got put into a hot spot only to allow one goal on 12 shots. The Penguins will have until Sunday morning to decide on a starting goaltender when they host the Washington Capitals at Noon (EST).
This creates a big decision for head coach Mike Sullivan. Does he go back to Jarry or let things cool down and give DeSmith a start? These two goalies are familiar with one another and had a healthy competition to become Matt Murray’s backup in 2018. In fact, DeSmith has made a habit of taking advantage of his opportunities at the NHL level. In 51 games with Pittsburgh, he holds a 21-15-6 record along with a 2.63 goals against average and .917 save percentage.
Perhaps the toughest part of Jarry’s shaky start was that former goaltender – and two-time Stanley Cup champion with Pittsburgh – Matt Murray won his first start with the Ottawa Senators on Friday night. A huge home opening victory for the Senators over their Provincial rival Toronto Maple Leafs.
For the Penguins, ouch.
All that said, it is way too early to write off Jarry. Taking over the starting goaltending position is an adjustment at any level, but especially in the NHL. The Penguins likely expected a few hiccups – just maybe not this early!
My guess is that Jarry eventually gets back on track, and DeSmith is certainly a good stabilizing option in the meantime. He might even hold the crease for a while. Stay tuned Sunday morning to find out what Sullivan decides.
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