In today’s goalie news, we’ll discuss a young goaltender who is making a strong case for an expanded role, and we’ll look at two oddities of history on Dec. 5.
Jarry Puts Penguins on Hot Seat
If there wasn’t already a major goaltending controversy for the Pittsburgh Penguins, there certainly is now. Tristan Jarry got the start Wednesday night and made it count, shutting out the red hot, defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues. More impressively, he did it just four days after the Blues shellacked his partner, Matt Murray, on home ice by a score of 5-2.
It wasn’t the Blues’ best night, but they still managed 28 shots and eight high danger chances, and Jarry turned them all aside. In the process, he collected his seventh quality start of the season (he’s failed that standard just once), and advanced to 6-4, with a save percentage (SV%) of .936.
Jarry’s performance is thrown into even starker relief when compared with the poor performance Murray gave on Saturday night. He allowed five goals on 27 shots, several of them fairly weak, including both Justin Faulk and Nathan Walker’s first goals as Blues. Murray now sits at 9-5-4 with an .897 SV%. Just 45 percent of his starts have been quality.
There were already many voices in Pittsburgh calling for Jarry to start more. Now, the argument against making him at least the temporary starter is all but untenable. He has consistently outperformed Murray at every turn this season.
But the bigger question comes for the Penguins after the season. Both Jarry and Murray are restricted free agents, and while Pittsburgh shouldn’t be desperate for cap relief as they have often been in recent seasons, they also likely won’t want to pay a goaltending tandem $10 million, something they might have to do if they wish to keep both current netminders.
Hovering in tenuous playoff berth territory with a rash of serious injuries, the Penguins have some decisions to make. Many expect that Jarry will be traded at some point this season or in the offseason, but might general manager Jim Rutherford do the unthinkable and trade Murray, despite everything he’s done for the organization? It still seems unlikely, but one thing is certain: Jarry is doing all he can to prove that he deserves to remain part of the Penguins’ future.
Esposito vs. Esposito
Dec. 5, 1968, featured one of the strangest and most historic goaltending debuts in history. For the first time that night, a young Tony Esposito took the ice for the Montreal Canadiens. Skating across from him? His equally talented brother, Phil.
While brother vs. brother matchups are hardly a rarity in the NHL (most recently, we saw the first of what will likely be many showdowns between the uber-talented Jack and Quinn Hughes), this one was especially memorable. Tony stopped all but two shots against him, making 33 saves; however, both of the pucks that slid past him came off Phil’s stick.
Esposito managed to overcome the 2-2 draw and the loss of familial bragging rights. The next season, he would join the team with which he is now synonymous, the Chicago Blackhawks, and win the Calder and Vezina Trophies. In total, he won three of the latter in a career that featured five all-star appearances, 418 wins, 74 shutouts and, ultimately, a very well deserved induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Markstrom Avoids Embarrassment
Almost 50 years after Esposito made his historic debut, Jacob Markstrom made history of a different sort. On Dec. 5, 2017, Markstrom collected his first career shutout in his 129th game. The timing couldn’t have been better, as the record for most games without a shutout is 132, held by Eldon “Pokey” Reddick, who played for multiple teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Markstrom made 30 saves against the Carolina Hurricanes in his timely shutout. Despite recording just two more shutouts since then, he has remained a stalwart for the Vancouver Canucks. He is seventh amongst goalies in the league in games played over the last three seasons (138) and has built his case that he should be the Canucks’ focus in net going forward, despite the promise of Thatcher Demko and Michael DiPietro.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.