The Pittsburgh Penguins have been busy through the first week of July, locking in key players before free agency begins on July 13. Much to their fans’ relief, among these players was defenseman Kris Letang. However, perhaps a more surprising, Casey DeSmith, Tristan Jarry‘s backup, was also signed to a two-year contract extension with an average annual value (AAV) of $1.8 million. The extension seems to have split fans right down the middle, as some believe he is just too inconsistent and injury-prone, while others think he is the perfect backup. He now has time to prove his critics wrong.
DeSmith’s Season in Review
Last season, DeSmith played in 26 games and went 11-6-5. He had a 2.79 goals-against average (GAA) and a .914 save percentage (SV%). With Jarry injured heading into the postseason, it looked like he would be the man between the pipes against the New York Rangers heading into the first round. However, he left Game 1 during the second overtime with a core muscle injury.
Based on DeSmith’s numbers over his past four seasons with the Penguins, he is inconsistent at best. However, there was something different about his play last season, and when Jarry was injured in early April, he turned a corner. On April 21, DeSmith faced the Boston Bruins at home and set a franchise record, making 52 saves in the shutout win. Before leaving Game 1 against the Rangers, he became the sixth NHL goalie to make over 48 saves in a postseason debut.
We know DeSmith stepped up to the plate after Jarry got injured. However, the biggest question surrounding him is, can he stay healthy? He has undergone two core muscle surgeries just a year apart, the most recent in May, although the Penguins are expecting to have him back on the ice in September when training camp opens.
Penguins Sticking With Their Goalies
There are no questions about who the Penguins’ starting goalie will be heading into the 2022-23 season. Jarry played in 58 games last season with a record of 34-18-6 and ended the year with a .919 SV%. He also had a 2.42 GAA and posted four shutouts. Even though he missed most of the postseason, his play helped the team reach the playoffs for the 16th season in a row. Jarry has earned the starting position, and now he will have a dependable number two.
DeSmith is heading into his fifth season with the Penguins and now must prove himself to be the backup the team needs to win the Stanley Cup, and consistency will be key to that success.
The injury that kept Jarry out of most of the playoffs was likely caused by overwork. Last season, DeSmith was not ready to take on a heavy workload; however, he has proven that he can rise to the challenge in the past. He became a different player in the second half of last season. He showed more maturity and overall hockey sense. When his team needed him to step up in a big way, he delivered. He has been learning from Jarry over the past four seasons, and it looks like the Penguins have found their perfect goalie combination – especially if he stays healthy.
With the goalie position set, along with the recent signing of Letang, the Penguins are setting themselves up to make another run at the Stanley Cup next season. They will definitely be a team to watch for the rest of the offseason and heading into the 2022-23 campaign.
My name is Sylvie McCarthy and I am a graduate of the University of North Florida. I have spent time as a sports writer for the Casper Star Tribune in Casper, Wyoming and the Picayune Item in Picayune, Mississippi. Sports is my passion, and I am so excited to be writing for The Hockey Writers where I will be covering the Pittsburgh Penguins.