I Am On Board With DeSmith Remaining the Penguins' Backup

Courtesy of Penguins.com

The Penguins backup goaltending situation has been called into question dating back to last season’s playoffs. Despite Tristan Jarry miserable failing in last year’s playoffs, the Penguins never wavered and stuck with him all the way through.

Was that due to a lack of trust in Casey DeSmith? Or did the Penguins really see something that made them believe Jarry’s confidence wasn’t all the way shaken. Regardless, DeSmith’s name was never called last postseason and the Penguins were bounced in round one.

Fast forward to this season and things have been much of the same. Tristan Jarry has started 41 games to DeSmith’s 13. It’s one of the more lopsided goaltending timeshares in hockey.

Jarry’s play has dictated a lot of that. He’s been incredible in rebounding for the Penguins following last season’s postseason disaster, so he deserves immense credit for such a turnaround. But he’s played entirely too much and it happened mainly because DeSmith’s early season play had been among some of the worst goaltending in the entire league.

Fortunately for DeSmith, things have turned around for him. He’s quietly got his goals against average down below three (2.99) and his save percentage north of 90% (.903). He had a shutout back on February 10th and has posted better than a 90% save percentage in four of his last five outings.

His record currently stands at 6-3-2 on the season which means he’s gotten the Penguins 14 points in his 11 games. For a guy who can’t get his footing because the coaching staff hasn’t consistently played him, that’s pretty good.

The message for weeks has been that the Penguins need a new backup goaltender. Just a few weeks ago, I thought that was the case. I even opined for one on this very website a little over a month ago.

I’ve since changed my tune.

The thing with DeSmith is that he’s been a quality backup goaltender for a few seasons. In 84 career games, he’s got a winning record, a .914 save percentage and a 2.64 goals against average. Those are league average starting goaltender numbers and he doesn’t even play every day.

The Penguins’ goaltending depth has always been rather deep. From Marc-Andre Fleury to Matt Murray, and now into the Tristan Jarry era, DeSmith was never going to get an opportunity to be the guy in Pittsburgh. Instead, he had to run with the backup opportunity and make sure he didn’t give the Penguins a reason to hide him away in the AHL.

The real reason that anyone wanted to acquire a backup goaltender is that the Penguins couldn’t run Jarry out there every game the rest of the way. While he surely would love to play every night, the playoffs are a bit more important and he can’t be fatigued come the important games.

Having a great backup goaltender would come in handy for that very reason down the stretch. The Penguins are pretty much locked into a playoff spot unless a massive catastrophe strikes. The perfect time to lighten Jarry’s load is now, and get DeSmith some more playing time so he can continue to find his footing.

Obviously, Pittsburgh doesn’t want to give away points over the rest of the season just because they’re very comfortably in the playoffs.  However, as of late, DeSmith’s play no longer warrants a massive need to supplant him.

Come playoff time, the Penguins don’t want to have to play a game without Jarry anyway. If he gets hurt during the playoffs, or even before they start, it may be curtains for the Penguins’ season anyway. So the backup goaltender would really only be there for the stretch run.

Acquiring a Braden Holtby or some veteran backup would cost valuable future assets to a team that doesn’t have many as it stands. Let DeSmith continue to play and thrive.

And even if the worst situation arises, DeSmith has shown in the past he can play good hockey. So if he is called upon for the playoffs, he can certainly win a game or two in a pinch. Louis Domingue didn’t have a bad first impression in Pittsburgh, either.