Because he hasn’t played much the past month, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith has been flying mostly under the radar. He popped up again Thursday, when he got the start in Buffalo after being Matt Murray’s backup for nine straight games, and relieved Murray Saturday.
DeSmith, 27, an important player earlier this season when Murray was slowed by injuries and rough patches in his game, got rewarded in January with a three-year, $3.75 million contract extension that kicks in next season. He was 2-3-1 in his first six decisions after the signing, but he responded Thursday with a 26-save shutout in a 5-0 win over the Sabres, then stopped 12 of 13 shots he faced Saturday in a 5-1 loss to St. Louis
He is 15-11-5 in 2018-19, with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
The appearances also served as a reminder that DeSmith is using bright yellow equipment, most notably pads, these days. That seemed like it might be a conversation starter with a player who is good at conversation. It led to an interview Friday about those yellow pads, and about goalie equipment in general:
PHN: As a reminder, did you get those yellow pads to match the Penguins’ third jersey this season?
DeSmith: No, I actually don’t like the third jersey. It’s too much yellow. It doesn’t look good. I’ll be the first to admit that (the yellow pads) don’t look good with the third jerseys.
I got them for the Stadium Series (outdoor game Feb. 23 in Philadelphia). Those are black jerseys. I thought that these pads looked great with those. That’s why I got them.
Now I’m just kind of rolling with them for a little bit, just until they get a little bit worn out, then I’ll switch back. It was just a little fun thing I did for the Stadium Series, and obviously (former Penguins franchise goalie Marc-Andre) Fleury used to wear them. I thought people would be a little bit excited to see some yellow pads again.
PHN: Do you know the story of why Fleury stopped wearing his yellow pads? That an eye doctor in Ottawa, Janet Leduc, mailed him and the Penguins to warn that yellow is the easiest color for the human eye to detect, so it might make it easier for shooters to choose where to shoot?
DeSmith: I do.
PHN: That didn’t stop you?
DeSmith: It doesn’t matter. I think guys are pretty good at hitting the net regardless. It’s just a matter of if you make the save or not. At this level, guys pick corners regardless. It doesn’t matter if you’re wearing all white, all black, all yellow. That’s the way I look at it.
If I let in five goals (Thursday at Buffalo), I definitely wouldn’t have been, ‘Oh, it was the pads’ fault.’ That’s on me. And if I get a shutout, it wasn’t the pads either. That was me, too.
PHN: So how long will you use the yellow pads?
DeSmith: I’ll go back to what I had before, probably very soon. I got these a few weeks before the (outdoor game), so probably about a month and a half I’ve had these.
PHN: You’re switching that quickly?
DeSmith: They start to get a little too (bendy or squishy; demonstrates by pushing down on one of his nearby pads), which I really don’t like.
PHN: So you’ll be breaking in new ones real soon?
DeSmith: Not much of a break-in period nowadays. Pads are so light and so well-made that you can basically just pop them right on and go. I’ve used pads in a pregame skate and then played that night, brand new.
I don’t know if they break down faster than they used to. I don’t think that’s the case. I just think that previously goalies really liked having broken-in gear, and that’s what they were most comfortable in. But now the gear is so light and so well-made you can just pop new gear on and it feels better than old gear. So guys like new gear now more than old gear – which I’m sure equipment managers hate, but that’s the definitely the way that pads are going. They’re a little less durable, but you can put them right on and go.