Pittsburgh’s Goaltending Controversy

Rut-ro Raggy we got ourselves a goalie controversy.

After 173 minutes of shutout hockey Tristian Jarry allowed a goal midway through the second period of Tuesday night’s contest against the Montreal Canadiens. This set the franchise record for longest amount of time without giving up a goal. Congrats Jarry.

He allowed three goals that night. Then went right back to giving up zero goals Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. For those of you keep track at home over a four game stretch Jarry has a sub-1 goals against average. That is effin sweet.

On the other side of the goaltending duo sits a two time Stanley Cup winner. A man who seemingly has never lived up to the expectations set for him after he became “The Man” in between the Penguins pipes. However the numbers tell a story that might surprise you. 

Since the departure of Marc-Andrea Fleury in 2017. Over that stretch he has played 120 games. Matt Murray carries a 2.81 GAA. That puts him basically dead middle of the league. He carries a 0.911 Save Percentage which puts him in the top ten in the league. Now you are ready for the kicker kids. He makes 3.7 Million a year. That is in the bottom percentage of the league for goalies. Let alone guys who are in Murray’s class. So for 3.7 Million you have an average to above average goalkeeper. 

So currently the Penguins wield a guy who is dirt cheap for slightly above average return, and a young goalie who has a hand as hot as Patrick Roy in 1985. So how do we progress from here?

Well it is simple you play them both. I would suggest by the end of the season each goalie’s game started total should read forty one. A dead even split.

Well don’t you need a starting goalie to win in this league?

Not so much Jimbo. Look at the team that swept the Penguins last season. The New York Islanders the goalies damn near split the season in half with Robin Lehner starting forty three games and Thomas Greiss starting thirty nine. They had the best goals against average in the league last year. They cruised into the playoffs and swept the Penguins.

Well they can’t replicate that!

Actually they can and are currently doing it. With both Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss both having fifteen starts a piece. Boasting a stunning team 0.929 Save Percentage and a 2.21 Goals Against. The story is the same for the Bunch of Jerks in Carolina and The Dallas Stars. Today’s league is such a grind that a two goalie system is the most effective way to get through it. 

Well that worked for them but can Jarry and Murray cohabitate in that type of scenario?

Yes! There is evidence to back that up! In the 2015-16 season in Wilkes-Barre Scranton they split time and the results were lights out. The pair had a 0.922 Save Percentage and a 2.40 Goals Against. That’s really effing good for those of you keeping track at home!

Well Murray gives up soft goals, and has a shitty glove hand!

Look every goalie has their flaws. Where Jarry makes some spectacular athletic saves that are highlight real esc. Murray is better in tight and playing the percentages. Check out these heat maps.

Murray struggles with long range shots that is true. But most of Jarry’s goals against come from in close. The same place Murray excels. 

Sure Jarry may be fun to watch, but he is not necessarily the most reliable. Jarry plays a more traditional style of goaltending. On top of his crease challenging shooters and pucks. This style forces Jarry to make contact with players in front of the net. Constantly setting up outside of his crease. A perfect example of how this can bite him in the ass is the Shea Weber goal. Jarry is so far outside his crease he has no ability to get back to the far post.

Where as Murray plays a percentage style game. Playing deep in his net allowing pucks to come to him instead of meeting them at the top of the crease. This style of goaltending has become really popular and is executed by most “big goalies” in the league. This allows Murray to make a save going across his crease more easily than Jarry. Allowing him to stop pucks in close that Jarry can’t get too.

If they take this information and use it to pair the goalies against opponents this could be a real advantage for the team. Let’s say Murray plays against a team like Washignton. A team that likes a lot of zone possession time and tries to score goals off of that. Where as Jarry plays better against teams like the Islanders who like to attack off the rush.

Well Murray’s contract is up and we ain’t gonna pay him!

I won’t ignore the fact that Matt Murray’s contract is up at the end of next year. He will likely get paid six million over a six year time frame. Whether that is by the Penguins or by someone else I can’t say. However, what I can tell you is for now. There is no goaltending controversy. Instead what you have blossoming before you is an elite goaltending tandem. The likes of which should give you flashbacks to the days of Tom Barrasso and Ken Wregget. You should feel comfortable on any given night the goalie gives you a chance to win the game. 

Which on a team that is so depleted with injuries every Penguins fan should be thankful for.

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