Regular Season Stats: 14 GP, 6-4-1, 2.40 GAA, .921 SV%, 1 SO
Postseason Stats: Did not play.
Defining Moment: 2016-17′ AHL Playoffs
Yes, I understand that this moment is from the previous playoff season but it is pretty symbolic of a trend that has continued into this season. Casey DeSmith has outplayed his counterpart, Tristan Jarry, at each level of the Penguins’ ranks. Jarry began the 2016-17′ season as the clear cut starter. A young, unknown player in DeSmith eventually played his way into that role and started for the team in the playoffs.
We head into this past season. Jarry was higher on the depth chart. The Penguins had started this season with an aging veteran in Antti Niemi as their backup. It went about as bad as one could’ve guessed. On came Jarry to the rescue.
Then, Matt Murray had his rash of injuries and off the ice issues. Jarry was the newly-named starter in DeSmith’s absence. Then, just like the past few season’s, DeSmith played his way into the starter’s role and Jarry played his way to the pine. DeSmith outplayed Jarry to the point that DeSmith served as Murray’s backup for the final few months of the regular season. Jarry played for Wilkes-Barre/Scraton and had been bounced in round one.
Player Grade (B-)
DeSmith is already 26 years old and is finally getting his chance after some off the ice accusations and being low on the totem pole held him from trying to ascend through the rankings. He’s also very interesting.
Standing at a mere 6’0″, DeSmith isn’t the tallest goaltender in the world and is in fact undersized at the position. That hasn’t stopped him from acclimating himself well to the crease at the NHL level.
DeSmith made his NHL debut against Winnipeg early in the season when the Penguins were still trying to find their footing. He had entered after Murray had gotten light up and DeSmith was called upon in the first period. He allowed a goal to Blake Wheeler on the first shot he faced that completed Wheeler’s hat trick for the night. He allowed two more and finished with 12 saves on 15 shots.
DeSmith’s highest moment came in the Penguins’ regular season finale when he recorded a 35-save shutout against the Ottawa Senators with most of the Penguins lineup resting for the night as they headed towards the playoffs. It was big for his confidence and made the coaching staff happy as far as his play in case they needed him in the playoffs.
Role for 2018 Season
It seems safe to say that, unless the Penguins sign an NHL veteran backup goaltender, DeSmith will be the Penguins’ back up goalie when the season opens in October. The Penguins just don’t have the capital to freely sign a backup goalie while filling the other needs on their team.
Backup goalies don’t post insane stats but they play capable enough to give you a chance to win when they start in place of you franchise goalie. DeSmith does just that. Unless Jarry outplays DeSmith wildly in training camp, I’d expect DeSmith to be the guy watching Murray from the bench come Opening Night.