Meesh’s Weekly Pens Thoughts: Week 3

Short post this week to match Niemi’s tenure as the backup goalie in Pittsburgh.

Finding Nemo…on the Waiver Wire

You know how Marlin can’t tell a joke to save his life at the start of Finding Nemo? That is basically how Antti Niemi’s tenure as backup goalie with the Penguins went.

Pittsburgh: “Hey you’re a Stanley Cup winning goalie, you can stop pucks, right? Hey stop a puck for us.”

Niemi: “Well, actually, that’s a common misconception. Stanley Cup winning goalies can’t stop pucks any better than any other goalie.”

Pittsburgh: “Awww c’mon Stanley Cup winning goalie, make a save for us…”

Niemi: “Well, alright, I can stop this one…”

*red light goes on behind Niemi*

I don’t have much more to add to my Niemi evaluation than what I’ve said in previous posts. He’s not a good goalie and the team was trash in front of him yet again. I thought he looked serviceable early on Saturday and even made a big 2-on-0 save, but the game unraveled as his flawed positioning, poor rebound control, poor puck tracking, and shrinking demeanor in the crease were exposed (if you want to see a goalie truly lacking confidence – watch one who won’t stray from the middle of the crease).

There were two quotes from the Tampa broadcast that grabbed my attention in regards to Niemi:
“I’m not even sure how Vasilevskiy saw this one” on a big save on the PP to keep the Penguins off the board and “Kucherov just shrugged after that one” for the 6th Lightning goal.

With Niemi, the Penguins were never going to get enough of those Vasilevskiy saves from the first quote, but they were going to have too many goals allowed like the second quote regarding Kucherov.

I don’t think we ever saw the best Niemi had to offer given how bad the team played in his 3 games, but we saw enough to know that there’s no reason to stick with him.

My only lingering question is why didn’t Niemi start against a lesser Florida team on Friday with a fresh Penguins team in front of him so that Murray could take on the more talented Lightning team with a tired roster? That would have been the perfect situational test, but alas, I don’t think it matters in the end (and that could have easily resulted in a loss to Florida *and* a loss to Tampa).

Calling up DeSmith

To the surprise of some (myself included), Casey DeSmith received the call-up after Niemi was waived. When Rich and I discussed this situation on the podcast, I was completely against Jarry coming up and Rich was all for it. I don’t know how Rich feels about DeSmith, but I’m all for this scenario instead.

DeSmith is 3-0 this season with a 0.98 GAA and .965 save percentage. Kinda decent, right? But as Ryan Wilson loves to say, goaltending is voodoo, so who knows what he turns into in the NHL. The thoughts on Jarry are clear right now – he’s meant to be in the AHL to develop. I think the path is a little more fluid for DeSmith, who has taken a longer route to this moment, even by way of Wheeling at one point. Not only can the Penguins see what they have in DeSmith, who had minor league deals until this season, but they can stay the course without disrupting their plan for Jarry’s development. I think there are several short-term wins in that plan for the organization.

That being said, I think this backup goalie situation is far from set and I fully believe there will be a trade near the deadline to bring in a veteran backup.

Adding Sheahan

In a world where we overreact to every transaction and tweet, I have to admit that I looked at this trade, blinked, hit retweet, and moved on.

It’s a simple trade and it makes sense. The Penguins trade away a spare part (sorry, Scott Wilson) and get an immediately usable part into their lineup. They had to pay a little extra by throwing out a 3rd round pick while getting a 5th round pick back (meh to both). Really, there isn’t much to dissect about this one.

Sheahan adds size, better depth at center, and smart defensive play, both at even strength and on the PK. I’m not expecting much from him production-wise, maybe 25-30ish points depending on how much PP2 time he gets, but I do expect him to break up some of the extended defensive zone situations that the Penguins have been in a little too frequently.

After the trade, the Penguins, who are a flawed team, are a little less flawed. They gave up very little to become less flawed. I can’t really ask for more than that. We all know this roster is far from finalized.

Assessing the Penguins

It’s rather difficult to assess a team that finds a way to get destroyed once a week. Niemi started all of those losses of course, so perhaps that trend will come to an end. Regardless, the Penguins have looked terrible in those losses and the next back-to-back situation is coming up this weekend as the Penguins start off in Minnesota before moving west into and through Canada.

With Murray and a fresh team, the Penguins are 5-0-1. With Niemi and a tired team, the Penguins are 0-3. Part of the latter scenario is gone now.

What is my assessment then?

The Penguins have been the defending Stanley Cup Champions for 498 days…and their starting goalie for both Championships has yet to lose a game in regulation this season.

The Penguins are doing just fine, 7-1 losses and all.

Thanks for reading!

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