The good news for the Pittsburgh Penguins is they not only managed to beat a team (the Florida Panthers) that is trying to chase them down in the Eastern Conference playoff race on Tuesday night, but that they also managed to get a win in overtime.
Kris Letang returned and scored two goals and had four points, they found some scoring depth, and they managed to get two very important points in the standings.
The bad news for the Pittsburgh Penguins is that we might need to add another need to the shopping list. That need: A goalie.
Tristan Jarry is injured again, and it seems to be a different injury from the one that previously sidelined him. That forced Casey DeSmith into the starting role against Florida and it didn’t go well. To be fair, he did not know until the absolute last minute that he was starting, the Penguins did make some mistakes in front of him, and Florida does have talent even if its record does not fully show that this season.
But even with that combination of variables I am not sure they should have allowed six goals in that game. The expected goals at Natural Stat Trick had the Penguins at 3.9 in all situations (they allowed six) and 2.84 during 5-on-5 play (where they allowed four), so, take that however you like.
Not only was it a problem in terms of numbers, but DeSmith just didn’t look good. Nor has he at any point this season. Even when Florida was not scoring he seemed to be flying out of position, looked rattled, and gave up a couple of goals where he simply did not look like he was playing at an NHL level. It was bad.
Throughout his career he has been fine in smaller doses, but the more he has to play, the more he seems to struggle.
Take this recent stretch of games as an example. He has had to play in eight of the Penguins’ 11 games since the beginning of the new year (when Jarry was initially injured). He has an .880 save percentage during that stretch that is progressively getting worse with each game. Of the 41 goalies that have played in at least five games during that stretch, his .880 marks ranks 36th in the NHL.
That is a problem when your starting goalie, in this case Tristan Jarry, has been missing a lot of time due to injury.
This brings us to one of my biggest complaints with the Ron Hextall/Brian Burke front office.
Goaltending, for one reason or another, has been the single biggest factor in the Penguins not winning a playoff round in each of the past two seasons.
In each series they were the better team. Significantly so in my view. But because they could not get any sort of adequate goaltending, whether through poor play or injury, they lost both series. It is the one thing that has held them back more than any other.
Yet they keep bringing back the same duo without making any sort of change.
It is a complicated situation because when Jarry is healthy, he is 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 the full-time starter in the playoff series he completely melted down, and 2) he keeps getting hurt.
I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and more chances when it relates to the first point. Sometimes guys just have a bad playoff run or a bad stretch of games. I want to see him get a full series when he is fully healthy and see what he does with it.
While the second point might just be bad luck, it is something you have to be concerned about when you don’t know if you can trust your backup to play for an extended period of time.
So is that something that needs to be added to the pre-trade deadline shopping list? Goalie depth?
It might be, because it is becoming pretty clear the Penguins are going to need to rely on a backup goalie for at least an extended period of time and DeSmith is not exactly inspiring much confidence that he can give you what you need. Even if Jarry is back for the playoffs, are you comfortable going into that with the current depth chart in the event that Jarry either struggles or is injured? I am not sure how.
I am still on board with extending Jarry because again, when he is healthy, he is very good and you are probably not going to find a better starting option for a cheaper price on the open market. And forget the price, there probably is not a better starting option even available for them.
But you might have to start exploring options behind him 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 is certainly on the list.