Pittsburgh Penguins: Was That Really An Encouraging Start From Jeff Zatkoff?

By Anthony Murphy
Jeff Zatkoff
Robert Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

It may only be November, but his start against the Columbus Blue Jackets could have been a make-or-break game for Jeff Zatkoff.

After allowing ten goals in his first two games, questions surrounded Zatkoff on whether or not he could be a legitimate backup to Marc-Andre Fleury. Taking care of both his first win and shutout on the same night, Zatkoff made 19 saves Saturday night.

Does this performance finally solidify him as the backup, or should the Pittsburgh Penguins still look elsewhere for help? A shutout in the NHL should never be discounted, but Zatkoff still remained shaky in net at times, fighting off the puck and having a hard time tracking the puck. He did make some good saves, but had he been in position, it would have been easier.

What did work in his favor was the defense, who let him down in his first two starts of the season. In a complete team effort, the Penguins only allowed 11 shots for the majority of the game until the Jackets’ end of the game push.

Zatkoff still remains a complete puzzle, he looked good at times, but was completely overwhelmed in his first two starts. Then the defense actually clamped down and gave him a real chance at a win, and while he got it,  he looked less than stellar on a light workload.

Still having Jeff Deslauriers playing for Wilkes-Barre Scranton Baby Penguins on a tryout contract, Zatkoff will have to make every opportunity count. While never overly impressive, Deslauriers has the experience that Zatkoff does not and could be an interesting option as a backup to Fleury. If the Penguins plan to continue to use Zatkoff as the tail end of back to back games, they will get plenty of looks at him to evaluate his play.

In the month of November, the Penguins will play back-to-back four of the five Friday/Saturdays, meaning that Zatkoff will likely see at least four starts this month. How he performs this month will likely be the deciding factor if he will stick around.

The numbers will tell you he took the step in the right direction, but if you look beyond the numbers, the Penguins might still be in the same boat as after his first two starts.

Anthony Murphy is a contributing writer for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @AMurphyTFC.

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