It Has Come Time to Talk About Penguins' Goaltender Tristan Jarry

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Let me preface this entire column by saying that no one has forgotten about Tristan Jarry's playoff flop in last season's playoffs. There's a good chance no one ever will. Marc-Andre Fleury, the franchise's premier goaltender, caught flack for years over his playoff failures. It will stick with Jarry until his final game in a Penguins uniform.

That doesn't mean he can't turn his misfortune around and become a top caliber NHL goalie.

Early Season Success

The season is incredibly young. I'm not anointing Jarry as the new franchise goaltender by any means. Regardless, you've got to at least acknowledge what he has done through four games.

Jarry's early season record currently sits at 3-0-1. He's carrying a 1.47 goals against average and a .943 save percentage into Tuesday's game against the Lightning, a team Jarry has already beaten this season.

There has been no shortage of offense from the Penguins to this point. In fact, they have yet to lose a game in regulation and they're averaging 4.6 goals per game. Jarry is receiving plenty of help. He even got a 7-goal cushion from his team on Saturday evening against the Maple Leafs who, on paper, were every ounce of a better team. Mike Sullivan's team had other plans.

Newer Penguins fans would not be privy to the fact that Jarry is not allergic to regular season success.

In 2019, his first season with a real place in the NHL, Jarry outplayed Matt Murray and earned himself an All-Star game appearance. Jarry coupled that with a vote in both the Vezina Trophy and Hart Trophy races. It likely was some local voter trying to be funny as opposed to voting for the clear winners of those awards, but still, he received them.

Ironically enough, Jarry actually played in a playoff game that year. Jarry started Game 4 of a series against Montreal that took place in the Covid bubble. He allowed one lone goal in a 2-0 loss as he made 20 saves and nearly willed a lifeless Pens team to a decisive game five. That made last year's flop all the more interesting. Admittedly, the 2019 playoffs were played in front of no fans, which certainly has an effect on the play of a goaltender.

Shaking Off Postseason Struggles

Obviously, last season's numbers weren't pretty in the postseason. If you need to be reminded, Jarry allowed 21 goals over the six games. That was good for a 3.18 goals against average and a .888 save percentage. Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux could've had their prime powers combined and it wouldn't have been enough for the Penguins to come out of that series victorious. Jarry simply couldn't make a big stop when they needed it. It was to the point where any shot, regardless of it's spot on the ice, became a scare.

This season, Jarry seems much more focused. His maturity had been called into question over the offseason. Even head coach Mike Sullivan had made periodic mentions over the offseason of Jarry's mental toughness and other such qualities that NHL goaltenders must possess.

Citing the 7-1 win Saturday as an example, there have been times in the past where Jarry gets careless with such leads and doesn't seem as focused. He made sure to hold down the fort and stay strong despite the big lead to assure his team the victory.  Which is good, because this season the Penguins don't have much outside of Jarry to rely on.

Shallow Goalie Depth

I like Casey DeSmith. He's shown he can be a very effective goalie in the NHL. However, he hasn't really ever been given the reigns for an extended period of time. Could he carry the Penguins if Jarry falters? That remains to be seen.

Louis Domingue, a journeyman goaltender, lurks in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The same applies to him, though. He has played on some poor teams but there is a reason he isn't playing on an NHL roster at the moment.

For the Penguins' and the fans' sake, let's hope Jarry continues to play at a high level. Maybe his current numbers aren't sustainable over an entire season. But is it too much to ask for him to finish the season with a sub-2.5 goals against average with a solid save percentage in the high .920's?

With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, and now Kris Letang out of the lineup, Jarry's early season success is that much more impressive.

He deserves some praise. If he continues to play this well, he'll deserve another selection as an All-Star.

For now, I hope Jarry stays healthy and continues to perform at a high level. Maybe we can revisit this in April if the Penguins enter the playoffs for the 16th consecutive season on the shoulders of solid play from Tristan Jarry.

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