Tha Sports Junkies 101

What is going on in the Penguin’s crease?

Penguins goaltending Sarah A. via Flickr



Pittsburgh Penguins

Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Penguins squeaked out a 5-4 Overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres thanks to their young forward Conor Sheary. Four different players managed to score goals for the Penguins. Overall, that has been the story for Pittsburgh’s level of play this year. After coming off of back-to-back Stanley Cup wins, the hype and predictions were streaming in for a potential “Three-peat” this season. However, there has been poor performances by the Penguins goaltenders which has brought up some doubts about these claims.


Penguins Goaltenders

Matt Murray

After coming off back-to-back Stanley Cup wins to begin his NHL career, Matt Murray has been touted as an elite goaltender by many different critics and analysts. He has shown his potential in the past two playoff runs for his team with exceptional play. Statistics has been on his side for these statements, and no one has doubted his incredible play in the playoffs. However, this season has been an anomaly for the 23-year old.

However, this season has been a reality check for the Thunder Bay native. With the expansion draft this summer, the Pittsburgh front office decided not to attempt to retain Marc-André Fleury. This action showed that the team and management was placing their full confidence in Murray as the starter moving forward. Who could blame them for this decision? Their new starter had just come off of two playoff performances which carried the Penguins to two Cup wins.

Current Play

Throughout the 2015-2016 season Matt Murray showed the Penguins that their risk had paid off. Though he played in only 13 regular season games, he managed to put up an impressive .930 Sv% along with an even 2.00 GAA. He showed poise and comfort in the blue paint and continued this through the playoffs as well–posting a .923 Sv% and a incredible 2.08 GAA.

Furthermore, the next season showed his performance wasn’t a fluke. In the 2016-2017 season, he impressed by posting a .923 Sv % and a 2.41 GAA in 49 games. This past postseason however he was injured for much of the first half of the Penguins’ run. When he came back he found his stride immediately. He took the team to victory with a .937 Sv% and a 1.70 GAA in 11 games.

However, even with this successful–even historic–start to the career of Murray. Then reality has seemed to set in for the young star this season. After flying high and being put into the high-tier goaltending group with the likes of Carey Price and Braden Holtby; his season so far has failed to show this level of performance. He has a 10-4-1 record which seems that it shows a good amount of success. However, he has only registered a .903 Sv% as well as a rough 2.98 GAA over those 16 games.

Tristan Jarry, Casey Desmith, Antti Niemi

With the revolving door that seems to be the Penguins backup goalie position, these three goaltenders have accounted for every game Murray hasn’t started. Penguins goaltenders have been mediocre at best, and these backups are no exception. Jarry, Desmith and Niemi haven’t even accounted for a single win combined. The most successful goalie of the three is Jarry with two overtime losses and a .903 Sv% as well as a 2.84 GAA. It is safe to say that the Penguins goaltenders are struggling severely this year.


When there is an issue with the goalie play of a team in the National Hockey League, there are a few immediate options to remedy the situation. First, there is the AHL call-up to consider. Secondly, there is a trade option for potential suitors across the league.

AHL Call-Up

With his very limited playing time in the NHL, Casey Desmith has shined in the AHL. Throughout eight games at this level, he has put up a record of 7-0-1 with a .936 Sv% and 1.94 GAA. A promotion to backup position might be what could push his game to the level that the Penguins would need. The Rochester, New Hampshire native could boost his level of play as well as providing the needed amount of competition to get Murray out of his slump as well.

Trade Options

Furthermore, whenever a team is in need of a key piece to push their play to a higher level of competition, a trade is a common option. The Pittsburgh Penguins are in need of a solid goaltender to push their competition up and above what it is currently at. Teams that are on the bottom half of the league are the priority target for Pittsburgh, as they will be more willing to part with pieces of their team. Possible teams with solid goaltender trade options are:

  • Petr Mrazek (DET)

With a .910 Sv% and a 2.98 GAA for the struggling Red Wings, a change of pace could be what he needs. He has shown solid play and flashes of greatness for the Detroit franchise in the past few years. With the young duo of Murray-Mrazek, the Penguins could be set with a good starter no matter what the week or level of competition.

  • Roberto Luongo (FLA)

Though the experienced netminder is getting up there in age, he is still putting together solid seasons. At 38 years old, he is competing at a high level. With the league getting younger and faster, he still has a .919 Sv% although a relatively high 3.09 GAA. His leadership and veteran experience could be what the team needs for Murray to get himself together as well.

  • Scott Wedgewood (ARI)

This young goaltender could be a viable option for the future. Throughout his play for New Jersey and the Coyotes, he has showed poise and the ability to be a reliable option. With defense being an issue in Arizona, he still has managed to compose himself and give his team a chance to win. He has displayed a .913 Sv% and a 2.98 GAA.

Decision Time

Nonetheless, something has to change for the goalies of the Penguins. Whatever the choice by the front office, a mix-up should be initiated to get things moving again for Pittsburgh. A trade is the best option for them to bring someone in to shake things up.