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DeSmith Lit Up Again; Time for Penguins to Look for Backup Goalie?

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Casey DeSmith

Going back to last March, Pittsburgh Penguins backup goalie Casey DeSmith has allowed four or more goals in seven of his last nine starts. Saturday night, DeSmith stopped only 18 of 23 shots and only one was unavoidable.

Conversely, Penguins starter Tristan Jarry lost only three of his last 24 decisions and allowed four goals just twice this season and only six times in his last 26 games.

The is a growing disparity between the Penguins affable goalies. And GM Ron Hextall must be aware of it.

Is it time to start peeking at the NHL trade market for a backup? Or play DeSmith more?

“I think that the start to the season for Casey, as you know, is probably not going as well as he would like or we would like. That being said, I think that some of the situations we’ve used him–with long breaks in between–it makes it difficult for a goaltender,” acting head coach Todd Reirden said. “I think that’s something that we’ve got to get him back in there and get him more minutes and shorter time in between starts. I think (that) will help alleviate some of that problem.”

Maybe, but can the Penguins afford the gamble of dropping another couple of games? Coaches have tapped DeSmith to start three times in 13 games; that’s about the average load for a backup goalie without several back-to-backs.

Being ready is part of the job description.

Jarry is growing into a legitimate starting goalie among the league leaders with a .929 save percentage–where he was in 2019-20 when he made the All-Star Game and elbowed past former starting goalie Matt Murray.

DeSmith, 30, is a smaller goalie. At 6-foot, he’s almost tiny by current NHL standards. He’s always been athletic, but DeSmith was unable to track pucks through traffic on Saturday–a continuing trend–nor was DeSmith able to keep up or maintain form with pucks that changed direction.

Of the first four Ottawa goals, none were unstoppable.

Is it time for the Pittsburgh Penguins to look seriously for a backup goalie?

Sources told PHN that the Penguins management team with Brian Burke and Hextall were interested in an experienced backup goalie over the summer. Burke downplayed that push last month on 93-7 the Fan, but my reading of those tea leaves is the lack of movement may be more a result of a bad market than a lack of interest.

The Penguins discussed it enough that a source confirmed explorations.

The Penguins need better. It’s been quite a while since DeSmith’s eight-game run last March, in which he allowed two or fewer goals in eight straight while starting for the injured Jarry.

The underlying question Penguins GM Ron Hextall must ask is if DeSmith was exposed during his run last season, or if this is just a bad stretch. Being exposed is a legitimate worry for a goalie without a blue-chip pedigree.

In-House:

The Penguins suddenly have goaltending depth in their organization. First-year pro Filip Lindberg was the AHL Goalie of the Month in October. Louis Domingue has a .921 save percentage in five AHL games this season.

Domingue has also played 141 NHL games, which is almost double DeSmith’s 72 career games.

Domingue was an emergency call-up on Saturday and watched from the goalie perch on the bench. It’s not out of the question to give him a shot. Domingue’s attitude was nothing short of exuberant in training camp. He and goalie coach Andy Chiodo connected in a way that re-fired Domingue’s interest in the game.

It’s been a long time since an athlete looked me in the eyes and conveyed that much emotion and eagerness to play. The feeling was confirmed by a few other crusty media types who had to catch their breath after Domingue wrapped up.

Domingue was also very good in training camp. He stole a win with 15 third-period saves as the Penguins minor league roster beat Buffalo’s NHL roster in the preseason.

NHL Trade Block

If it’s not Domingue, Hextall might be wise to start the shopping process. The Pittsburgh Penguins are near the bottom in the Metro Division and every point matters. The Penguins are essentially .500 with a 5-4-4 record. Two of the regulation losses are DeSmith’s in just three starts.

And no, Marc-Andre Fleury is not in the Penguins price range unless Chicago wants to eat salary and take on more salary. There’s no good reason Chicago would do that, especially now that the team is back on the right track after a dark October of scandal and distraction.

No, a few goalies are floating about who could be had as teams realize they’re not as good as they want or have more than they need. Dallas could soon have three goalies on the NHL roster and an NHL calibre goalie in the AHL very soon. Braden Holtby makes just $2 million and would be worth a phone call.

Joonas Korpisalo is now the backup to Elvis Merzlikins in Columbus and makes $2.8 million. He’ll be a UFA next summer.

Petr Mrazek is injured, but Toronto has to pay Jack Campbell next season and Mrazek makes $3.8 million for this season and two more. Mrazek is a professional 1A goalie and has 277 games of NHL experience.

One thinks he might not be too expensive on the NHL trade market, and Toronto might backtrack on their free-agent signing because Campbell has been great this season.

DeSmith makes $1.25 million. If the Penguins send him to the WBS Penguins to make room for a backup, they will recoup $1.05 million in “stashed contract,” making a $2-$3 million goalie attainable with just a little tinkering or salary help.

Hextall has a few questions to answer. And so does DeSmith. The current run of not giving the Pittsburgh Penguins a chance to win can’t continue.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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MaryLurwick
MaryLurwick
13 days ago

I was hoping to see Domingue start the third period. At that point the game was over so it would have been beneficial to see him play, they missed a prime opportunity.

Ethan Kelley
Ethan Kelley
13 days ago
Reply to  MaryLurwick

I fully agree. Strangely even down 4 goals I felt they had a chance. When the 5th went in it seemed over. Poor #70 travels up to Ottawa from WB and you don’t even give him the nod for obligatory goalie change. Wasted opportunity and wasted chance to show even the tiniest of faith. And why was Letang still playing crazy minutes on the power play/pulled goalie with another game today–why not give Riikola an extended chance on point–rest Letang–and give someone other than Kappy a chance on left side–it is not like power play is working–0 for forever at… Read more »

Iwasiam
Iwasiam
13 days ago

Korpisalo, Korpisalo or better yet Korpisalo. I’d make him the starter and Jarry the backup. I know Jarry is the Pens new brilliant A+ but that’s laughable compared to Korpisalo

Doug Ukish
Doug Ukish (@dyna92)
13 days ago

It’s hard to go to a backup, especially the way he’s played, and Jarrys start, but he could possibly need more game action. Hes been great in the past, but he also saw more time in the net.

Andy
Andy
13 days ago

DeSmith experiment should be over. He has been bad dating back to last year. Pens need to solidify the position because they can’t afford to lose points like last night. DeSmith is a minor league goalie and that is where he belongs.

Bachinga
Bachinga (@bachinga)
13 days ago

Remember last season when everyone lamented that Pens couldn’t pull Jarry and put DeSmith in?

David
David
13 days ago
Reply to  Bachinga

I feel bad for DeSmith that he was injured during the playoffs when Jarry needed to be pulled. It was the opportunity of his lifetime and it passed him by.

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker (@rob71)
13 days ago

He would have to clear waivers, but why not send him down to get more regular playing time? If they happen to lose him, they still have Lindberg to take starts in WB.

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker (@rob71)
13 days ago

This whole Desmith situation sends more red flags. The defense really needs to tighten up. Granted, they were missing 3 regulars last night, but they have to find a way to help out their goalie. They have been relying on Jarry far too much so far this season!

Frank
Frank
13 days ago

I don’t think the stock in a goalie rises and falls faster than another member of the team. Jarry’s has been up and down almost game to game. Trust me . .. if he gets blow out tonight or watches a soft one or two float in daggers will be out again. It is the nature of the position. I am wondering a bit about DeSmith as well and Hextall must have his ear to the ground to improve on that (or at least I hope so). He has been well below expectations so far and you have to wonder… Read more »

Peter Hoffman
Peter Hoffman
13 days ago

Sure. Blame the goaltender. This is a bad team with bad defense.
See Grubauer, Philipp.

Iwasiam
Iwasiam
13 days ago
Reply to  Peter Hoffman

Carrie Price carried that garbage team

Andy
Andy
13 days ago
Reply to  Peter Hoffman

Go back to last season and DeSmith’s last 6 games. The trend has continued into this year.

Uros
Uros
13 days ago

No, it’s not Domingue. Casey is a solid backup, but Jarry doesn’t have to worry he’ll lose his job. How good would Fleury be if didn’t have to battle Vokoun, Murray, Lehner… for his spot as a starter? Any of the 3 goalies mentioned would be a great improvement for our team.

celilo
12 days ago

Marino, Dumoulin and Mathison all minus players against high skill offensive players. Lots of grinders on the Pens, with few finishers.

What do you expect?

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