The Pittsburgh Penguins finally have their expected starter back. Matt Murray has been activated from injured reserve, while Tristan Jarry was sent back to the minor leagues. Now the question becomes how the Penguins will use Murray, given Casey DeSmith’s stellar play as the starter in his absence. DeSmith has posted a .925 save percentage through 20 appearances this season, a number Murray has reached since 2016-17.
Back in October, head coach Mike Sullivan claimed that Murray was still obviously the team’s number one, despite DeSmith’s success early on. That assertion will be tested as the season progresses, and the Penguins attempt to continue their climb up the ladder of the Metropolitan Division standings.
After starting his career about as well as possible with back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, Murray has struggled recently to find an elite level capable of putting the Penguins over the edge. Some of that has to do with injury—Murray has suffered from multiple ailments including several concussions over his short career—and some with simple inconsistency. Both things will be tested now that he has ample competition for the starter role, in both DeSmith and top prospect Jarry. The team certainly can’t wait around for his play to rebound if they want to keep pace in the Metropolitan, where the Washington Capitals are starting to extend their lead and look like the dominant team that took home the Cup last season.