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Penguins Thoughts: Is Jarry Reliable? Bottom-Six Help Available



Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry, NHL trade talk

Today ends the Pittsburgh Penguins’ bye week as the team reports for a 4 p.m. practice at the UPMC Lemieux Complex. However, the Penguins recalled third goalie Dustin Tokarski, presumably to backup Casey DeSmith, and not because coach Mike Sullivan devised a new drill requiring three goalies. The NHL trade deadline is 25 days away and the Penguins questions are getting larger, not smaller.

Today’s random Penguins thoughts center on the next 33 games and making the playoffs, from the March 3 NHL trade deadline to the waiver wire, gripping the stick too tightly, and learning to be an NHL’er.

Can the Penguins rely on Tristan Jarry?

I have rebuffed this question on radio, TV, and in print. 93-7 The Fan host Paul Zeise has asked me this question at least once a month for the past two years. My answer has not waivered … until now.

I think it is fair to call Jarry’s current injury “mysterious,” and it is the latest in a string of injuries that not only kept him out of last year’s playoffs until Game 7 (he wasn’t even close to healthy for the game), and limited him to 27 games this season.

Jarry’s puck-stopping ability is not in question, but his ability to stay healthy is becoming a cause for concern. The fact that no one seemed to know how or when Jarry suffered the latest UBI, which was severe enough to shut him down until after the All-Star break, only adds to the concern.

Tokarski’s call-up means Jarry will likely miss at least one more game. The Penguins depart for their annual California trip later this week. We’ll see if Jarry makes the trip with the team.

If this is a long-term or nagging injury, the Penguins absolutely must consider a goalie on the NHL trade market.

Random Thought 1A: We previewed the readily available and potential Penguins trade targets, who were primarily backup quality, but should the Penguins consider a straight-up goalie swap for a starter? Jarry is a UFA after this season.

GM Ron Hextall must not only consider ability and reliability, but now asset management comes into play. To lose Jarry for nothing this summer would have a rippling effect.

Rando 1B: Does the Penguins’ season hinge on Casey DeSmith?

If there’s a possibility that the Penguins’ season hinges on DeSmith, Hextall would not only need to hit the NHL trade market but should have an urgency. My eyes remain on the Vegas goalies, Adin Hill or Laurents Brossoit. Vegas needs middle-six wingers.

P.O Joseph Adding Skills:

Being in the NHL has accelerated Joseph’s growth as a player. I chatted with him before the break, and he rattled off a list of skills he’s picked up or trying to steal from his teammates, such as using his stick like Brian Dumoulin and his body like Marcus Pettersson.

“I think it’s a different learning process (NHL vs. AHL). I definitely feel like I learned a lot last year by staying (in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) and having a lot of ice time and learning more about myself on and off the ice,” Joseph said. “I think it was a good decision, and I’m really happy I did that process to be ready this year.

“I’ve watched (Marcus Pettersson) play the entire year; how intelligent he is with the puck and his body. How (Brian Dumoulin) has a great stick and vision and so much poise with (the puck). How (Chad Ruhwedel) is efficient on the ice and reliable defensively, bringing a touch of offense even if he doesn’t want to sometimes.”

Why wouldn’t Ruhwedel want to add offense? That’s for another day…

It’s almost impossible for fans and media to truly judge defensemen. The number of nuances and little things that would escape notice to most of us, but must be executed properly, are not few.

It also raised the question in my mind if the Penguins’ player development needs to change. Perhaps prospects with a chance to play in the NHL should spend some time with the team during the season. Perhaps play a few games if it’s reasonable.

No, not to “see what he can do,” but so that he can see what he needs to do. Many players don’t stick in the NHL until after several call-ups. And the Penguins’ player development could use a few wins.

As I noted early last week, the last Pittsburgh Penguins skater to be drafted and carve out a career with the team (before being traded) was Jake Guentzel, who was selected in the third round of the 2013 draft.

Sam Poulin

Despite being on personal leave since Dec. 7, Sam Poulin has been somewhat active on Instagram. The 2019 first-round pick posted several inspirational messages in stories (which expire after 24 hours) and, in a recent post, admitted he knows what it’s like to “deal with crap.”

Life happens, even to athletes. We hope all is well with the player.

Bryan Rust Grip It — and RIP IT

He is down in several offensive categories. He had 58 points, including 24 goals in 60 games last season. I also chatted with Bryan Rust before the break. He admitted that November was a brutal month, and he’s been guilty of gripping the stick too tightly.

Shots are a significant indicator of his declining numbers this season. He averaged 3.0 shots per game last season and was at three or above for the last three seasons. Over the last four years, his shooting percentage has hovered between 13 and 17.9%.

However, this season he has only 126 shots in 49 games (2.57 shots per game) and has an anemic 8.7% shot percentage.

Rust needs to get in position for shots and shoot. Shoot!

Sidney Crosby:

Maybe having some fun and scoring a couple of goals in the All-Star Game will loosen up Sidney Crosby. He’s been oddly out-of-sorts for a minute. The Hart Trophy talk has died, as have the Penguins’ stats, though Crosby and Jake Guentzel are still putting up points.

Crosby has posted a few “excuse me” multi-point games. Despite 60 points in 49 games, he’s only a plus-4.

The captain remains the Pittsburgh Penguins’ engine, and when he’s right, a lot of other things don’t matter.

Penguins Bottom-Six Help?

On Saturday, the Detroit Red Wings put 6-foot-1, 211-pound Adam Erne on waivers. This season, Erne has 14 points in 43 games.

He uses his frame well in the dirty areas, leads Detroit in hits (122), and is a genuine grinder. The Penguins could surely use a defensively responsible grinder with a touch of offense. Erne’s 14 points are double that of Teddy Blueger and one less than Brock McGinn’s total. Erne outweighs Josh Archibald by nearly 50 pounds, and a new face in the room wouldn’t hurt.

Erne was placed on waivers to make room for prospect Jonatan Berggren. A Penguins trade with Detroit, including salary going to Detroit, would make more sense than a waiver claim because Erne makes $2.1 million. After this season, he will be a UFA, so there’s no long-term commitment.

A heavy, physical player wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Penguins to add.