Mike Sullivan announced a particularly interesting decision ahead of Sunday night's tilt against the Boston Bruins.
The Pittsburgh Penguins bench boss opted to give Tristan Jarry the start in goal, despite the fact that the team hadn't played the night before. It's rather rare that a backup plays in such a situation, but Sullivan decided to ride the hot hand.
“He’s played very well, and so I think he’s deserving of the start tonight,” Sullivan said, reported by Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I think at this particular point in the season, I think it’s important for us to make sure that we’re focused on trying to win that game right in front of us.”
That quote was rather revealing - he felt his team had the best chance to win with Jarry in net, not with Matt Murray. That's some kind of statement to make when you have a starting goaltender struggling to get his confidence back.
As we know, things didn't turn out well for Jarry, who let in 5 goals through the first half of the game, eventually being pulled in favor of Murray, who didn't face much in the way of shots, but he stood tall when it mattered most.
Bruins star Brad Marchand received a penalty shot in the dying minutes of the 3rd period - had Murray not stopped it, that would've been it for the game.
“You’ve definitely got to come out a little further and try to match his speed almost,” Murray said following the win. “If you get caught flat-footed, it’s like a d-man, he’ll just walk right around you if he’s going full speed. That’s what I tried to do. He made a nice move. I thought he kind of had me on the glove side, so I kind of opened up. He went five-hole and I was able to get I think my back leg on it.”
The game ended 6-5 in overtime off a goal from Evgeni Malkin.
All this to say - we were starting to see the beginnings of a goalie controversy emerge, as it often happens with NHL teams as a young backup proves to be more successful than the starter. This was compounded by the fact that Murray is only 23, and Jarry 22 - leaving some to wonder who is actually the goalie of the future. Yes - Murray won two Stanley Cups, but this being his first full season as starter, he hasn't quite stepped up to the plate.
Of course, Jarry hasn't proven much either in his limited experience, but Sullivan choosing him to start over Murray on more than one occasion was starting to spark a little fire here in Pittsburgh.
Murray's performance in relief of Jarry said a lot about what he's capable of - and very likely pushes the needle back in his direction, as far as who Sullivan rides moving forward... for now anyways.
With the Penguins fighting to get back into the playoffs, this will continue to be a hot topic for Pittsburgh, and likely will continue to be until Murray regains his top form that saw him bring home two Stanley Cups.
PENGUINS GAME NOTES
Malkin's overtime goal was his 12th career regular season OT marker, putting him ahead of Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby (11) on the Penguins' all-time scoring list.
Crosby on the team's effort: "I think we've been resilient. I think we're playing more of our game. … I think tonight was one where we were down, but we felt like we did some good things and they capitalized on some mistakes. We just stuck with it."
Pittsburgh's power play rolled well Sunday night, scoring twice in three opportunities for a 66.67% success rate.
The Penguins dominated in shots (35-25), hits (36-28), blocked shots (18-15), and giveaways (5-10).