Training camp is days away while the NHL prepares to return to play. With real games set to be played on August 1, speculation is ramping up on which players will start, and that includes which goaltender will be between the pipes for Pittsburgh in their play-in against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Matt Murray — Tristan Jarry debate is not going anywhere for as long as both players are on the team at this point, and ESPN has weighed in with several of their writers giving their thoughts on who should be the rightful starter.
The Athletic reported in mid-June that Pittsburgh was leaning toward Murray for its Game 1 starter, and coach Mike Sullivan gave him high praise, saying, “He has shown the ability to play at his very best when the stakes are at their highest, and I can’t think of a better characteristic to have for an athlete.” So this dilemma might be over before it really heats up.
But there is no denying Jarry was the better goalie for the majority of the season, making his first NHL All-Star Game along the way. Murray started seven more games (38-31), but Jarry beat him out in save percentage (.921 vs. .899), goals-against average (2.43 vs. 2.87), even-strength save percentage (.929 vs. .901), quality start percentage (61.3% vs. 42.1%) and goals saved above average (11.07 vs. minus-11.60). The only big statistical area in which Murray was better over the season was high-danger save percentage, with his .816 narrowly edging Jarry’s .805.
Still, Jarry has 57 career starts and zero in the playoffs. Murray has 47 starts in the playoffs alone, and he has two Stanley Cups under his belt at age 26. In the two playoff runs since that pair of Cups, the numbers have taken a downturn, but overall, Murray has a .921 save percentage in the postseason. Do the Penguins stick with Murray in pursuit of his third title, or will it be another playoff goalie change in Pittsburgh?
Wyshynski: Jarry. Dance with the one who brought you to the party. In a season that saw the Penguins absolutely battered by injuries, Jarry was the steadying force in back of a terrific Pittsburgh defense, There’s no reason that formula can’t be applied to the playoffs, and there’s no reason why Murray and his impressive playoff pedigree aren’t better served as an insurance policy. I would reward Jarry. But it wouldn’t shock me to see Murray’s playoff history win out.
Kaplan: Murray. Maybe it’s just because I have an unwavering belief in this guy; I did pick him to win the Vezina in 2018-19 (which didn’t age too well). Jarry finished the season pretty brutally going 0-4 over his last four starts, giving up 18 goals with a .845 save percentage.
Arledge: Murray. This is close, and unlike the Rangers, there is no house money involved here. The Pens have a tighter Cup window, and if you want to win now, you play the goalie who is two years removed from winning a pair of titles before turning 24. (But I do expect this to come down to training camp and how well Jarry performs there.)
Masi: Jarry. This almost feels like a 2017 redux for the Penguins with Jarry taking over the reigns much like Murray did from Marc-Andre Fleury. I’ll lean on Jarry’s positive play before the new year over the inconsistency of Murray over the entire season.
The verdict: A 2-2 split.
Imagine that. A 2-2 tie amongst the writers. We can talk and argue until the cows come home about which goalie deserves the starting spot more, but given everything that has been said from the coaches and from above, my money is still on Murray being the go-to goalie. I may have even said in a previous post that Murray may be on a shorter leash due to Jarry’s performance this season, and I still hold by that.
Given the shorter series length, the leeway that may have been typically given to Murray will likely not be there if the Penguins fall into a quick hole.
Ben Arledge notes that the training camp performances could be the deciding factor of determining the netminder and I think that is where we will have to turn our attention for the next three-ish weeks before the play-in begins.
For more roster projections, check out Hooks’ article from yesterday talking about the full 31-player roster and let us know down below who you think deserves to be the starting goaltender.