Tristan Jarry entered the regular season amidst a mountain of criticism. Possibly rightfully so. If the goalie wasn’t the primary reason the Pittsburgh Penguins were swiftly ousted from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the New York Islanders, he was at least a strong contender.
There are only so many questions Jarry can answer this early in a season. But at least for now, his play should have squashed a bit of fear still resonating throughout Pittsburgh. Through three starts, Jarry looks like someone worthy of succeeding Matt Murray.
That won’t matter much if Jarry again performs poorly come spring. Still, it’s a start.
Jarry Remains Calm Among Chaos
To call Jarry a rare breed is an understatement. Goalies are often that way, but they come in different shapes and sizes. Some are intense and highly emotional, others are zany and off-the-wall. Jarry is neither.
In this case, that’s good. The 26-year-old could have reacted poorly to the first-round series against the Islanders. After all, he lost four of six starts with a 3.18 goals-against average (GAA) and a .888 save percentage. That’s without mentioning his infamous gaffe to end Game 5, passing the puck right to Josh Bailey for the game-winning goal in the second overtime.
But Jarry didn’t overreact following that moment. Actually, he didn’t react much at all. Jarry repeats the same lines: He has to focus on the next game. Work to get better. Stop the puck.
That’s really it. That could be maddening to a fan base coming off a third straight opening-round exit. The fans might like to see some emotion from a guy they see as most responsible for the latest playoff failure. But that’s not coming from Jarry, and that’s OK.
What that means is Jarry entered this season with a blank slate. He honestly might not carry into October any baggage from how last season ended.
Jarry could have started poorly here, but it would have had nothing to do with this past May. It would just be bad play. Likewise, his impressive start doesn’t have much to do with a rebound from the playoffs.
To rebound, you likely have to still be affected. In Jarry’s case, he likely isn’t. So come this training camp, he was simply in this moment and ready for his next time in net.
“I think my game’s just been growing every game,” Jarry said. “Getting more confident. I think what’s helped is just working with [goalie coach Andy Chiodo] and Casey [DeSmith], and the coaching staff. They’ve done a great job in practice, getting what we need to prioritze. I think that’s helped a lot.”
Jarry’s First Three Starts
So far this season, Jarry has probably been more impressive than he was at any point in the last campaign. That has to be taken with a grain of salt, as it’s a very small sample size. Jarry could give up four of five goals in each of the next two games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning. Who knows?
But going 2-0-1 with a 1.62 GAA and .935 save percentage through three starts is promising, especially when the lone loss was likely Jarry’s best outing thus far. In a 2-1 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, Jarry made 28 saves to ensure the Penguins would not lose in regulation through four games without centers Sidney Crosby (wrist) and Evgeni Malkin (knee), currently sitting at 2-0-2.
In a game played mostly 5-on-5, there weren’t many exceptional scoring chances, but a few Dallas had could have easily put the game to bed before overtime. Jarry slid over to deny a tip-in from Denis Gurianov at 16:43 of the second period and similarly stopped a one-timer from Jacob Peterson at 10:26 of the third.
The Penguins have also played well around Jarry. It could be expected they’d play a smothering style while waiting on at least Crosby to return. But as is the case with any goalie, there are going to be times where Jarry is left on his own.
In those moments, so far, Jarry has been there. He’s been the guy Pittsburgh could have used several months ago. The guy that could have delivered a lengthy playoff run. Jarry wasn’t that guy in May, but he is now when the Penguins are trying to survive an early stretch riddled with injuries to significant players, including first-line right wing Bryan Rust (week to week, lower-body).
Everybody feels good for him,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “Everybody understands the position he’s in. … I watch his body language a lot. You can learn a lot from a player’s body language. When you’re around them as much as I am, you can understand their body language. I think his body language, right now, exudes confidence.”
Future Questions For Jarry
All that said, this start will only matter if it pays off in the playoffs. First, the Penguins need to qualify. This type of play from their No. 1 goalie combined with a decent season from DeSmith, the backup, would have Pittsburgh in a pretty good spot in that regard.
So, assume the Penguins do make the playoffs, which is still a large assumption in mid-October, Jarry’s work throughout the regular season could be undone with just a few bad playoff starts. That’s just how it is.
It probably could have been expected Jarry would have a good to very good regular season. There wasn’t much issue there. It’s taking advantage of what’s left of Crosby and Malkin by delivering in the postseason.
Marc-Andre Fleury was stigmatized by a perceived inability to come up big in the playoffs for several seasons following Pittsburgh’s 2009 Stanley Cup championship. That would be the case for Jarry as well, and maybe even more magnified by the fact the clock is ticking on the Penguins’ core.
At the other end, Jarry has a chance to write a great story. Bouncing back from a horrible playoff outing last season with a more-than-solid one several months from now.
In the meantime, Jarry needs to just keep doing what he’s doing. No more, no less.
Wes Crosby is a freelance reporter, covering the Penguins for THW and serving as NHL.com’s Pittsburgh correspondent since 2013. He has also covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates for the Associated Press since graduating from Duquesne University in May 2013. During his tenure with NHL.com, Wes covered the Penguins’ two most recent Stanley Cup runs in 2016 and 2017.