Tristan Jarry is in the beginning stages of building his NHL resume.
The Penguins rookie goaltender has appeared in just five games over the last two seasons, his latest turn in goal coming as an injury replacement Monday night. However, the 22-year-old’s confidence is growing with each time in net.
“I’m a little bit more relaxed,” Jarry said. “I feel like I can play up here and help the team.”
The Penguins need Jarry’s help since Matt Murray is listed as “week-to-week” with a lower-body injury. Murray suffered the injury in a second-period collision with the Philadelphia Flyers’ Jakub Voracek in a game the Penguins rallied to win 5-4 in overtime at PPG Paints Arena.
Jarry will get the start Friday night when the Penguins return to action by visiting the Sabres at Buffalo. The Pens are carrying two rookie goalies on their roster, as Casey DeSmith was called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL.
Tristan Jarry Holds the Fort
Jarry wasn’t dazzling against the Flyers, allowing two goals on 10 shots. He did keep the Penguins close enough that they could rally from a 3-1 deficit after two periods to win for just the second time in their last five games.
Perhaps more importantly, Jarry continued to build trust with his teammates.
“Since he played his first game, we see what kind of goaltender we got behind Matt,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “We’re totally comfortable.”
If there were any doubters in the locker room — and not that they would say so publicly — Jarry took a big step toward winning them over last Saturday night. He notched his first career victory by stopping 33 of 35 shots from the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning in a 5-2 win at PPG Paints Arena.
Not Part of the Plan
The Penguins’ original plan for Jarry in 2017-18 was to continue his development with a third season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. However, the early-season meltdown of veteran goaltender Antti Niemi changed those plans and Jarry, the Penguins’ second-round draft pick in 2013, has been with the big club since Oct. 30.
Niemi signed as a free agent in the offseason to be Murray’s backup but lost all three starts, and the Penguins waived Niemi. Niemi gave up a whopping 16 goals, finishing his Penguins’ career with a 7.50 Goals Against Average and a .797 save percentage. Those type of numbers could be replicated by a cardboard cutout in the crease.
Meanwhile, Jarry has a 2.83 GAA, and a .907 save percentage and a .667 quality save percentage in his four games this season after making his NHL debut the in the 2016-17 regular-season finale. Neither of Jarry’s losses this season have been in regulation, one was in overtime at Calgary on Nov. 2 and the other in a shootout at Nashville on Nov. 11.
“I’m getting much more comfortable, and that comes with being in there every day and being able to face the shooters that are here and to practice with all the guys,” Jarry said. “I think that’s something that comes naturally and as I’m here every day, I just get better and better.”
Beating the Lightning with an outstanding effort for his first win also had a positive effect on Jarry. Only three goalies have held Tampa Bay to less than two goals this season — Anaheim’s John Gibson, Washington’s Phillip Grubauer and the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist.
“I’m a little bit more relaxed now that I got that one out of the way finally,” Jarry said. “I think this is something where I can go in and relax and play my game.”
Vote of Confidence
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford gave Jarry a big vote of confidence Tuesday by saying he is not looking to trade for a goalie. The endorsement carries more clout considering Rutherford was an NHL goaltender for 13 years before building three Stanley Cups winners as an executive.
For his part, Jarry feels supports from the front office to the coaching staff to the rest of his teammates in the locker room.
“I think every day I want to earn their trust a little bit more,” Jarry said. “It starts in practice. It starts by getting in games and showing them what I can do. I try really hard every game, and I want to do the best I can do and take away as much as I can from every game.”
John Perrotto, a long-time reporter for the Beaver County Times and Fan Rag Sports, is now part the Pittsburgh Hockey Now team. In addition to being a baseball reporter for USA Today, John will be covering the Penguins for PHN. Please follow him on Twitter @JPerrotto