After a few weeks of seeing more red lights than a walk through Amsterdam, Tristan Jarry is now gobbling pucks like Pac-Man. The Pittsburgh Penguins goalie bottomed out at an .857 save percentage before his rapid and almost immediate turnaround, culminating in his scene-stealing performance on Saturday.
As the NHL eyes turned to Sidney Crosby for his 1000th game on Saturday against the New York Islanders (though the NHL and broadcast networks didn’t schedule a national TV audience), the Penguins performance reflected the distracted day of honoring Crosby.
Instead, Jarry swiped two points from New York.
“Tristan won us that game, hands down,” Mike Matheson said on Saturday. “After the second period, it was 1-1, and we had no reason to be in that game. We didn’t play the way we should and need to, to stay with a team like the Islanders.”
On Monday, Jarry indirectly confirmed PHN’s analysis of his slump. Now, he’s more aggressive in the crease. He’s shrinking the net by challenging shooters.
The Penguins have won three of the last four games, not coincidentally because Jarry has been on his game and getting better. In the singular loss of the last four games, Jarry stopped 39 of 42 shots.
“(My confidence) is growing with every game. Every game, I want to be better, and I want to challenge myself to be better,” Jarry said. “It starts in practice, working with (goaltending coach Mike Buckley) early in practice, and I think it translates into my game.”
Jarry has been working with the big foam pylons for weeks (insert Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman joke here) to recognize and deal with shots through traffic. Unlike his predecessors, Jarry’s game does not include an obvious or fatal flaw.
Jarry moves well in the crease. He is one of the better stickhandling goalies in the NHL and scored an AHL goal a couple of seasons ago. In addition to the confidence, Jarry is cleaning up his game, too.
“It’s a bit of both. It’s recognizing what’s happening in the game. It starts with confidence. You’re recognizing and seeing plays a lot quicker,” Jarry said. “I think the defense has been doing a great job taking away options for me, and I’m just worrying about the shot.”
For the interested or astute, Jarry’s rebound control has increased greatly over the past couple of weeks. Jarry is steering pucks to the corner rather than leaving tasty rebounds near the crease.
Overall, Jarry’s stats have improved to 5-5-1 with an .892 save percentage. In his last four games, Jarry has stopped 131 of 140 shots for a .937 save percentage and allowed two or fewer goals in each of the last two games.
The Penguins’ blue line has been jumble, like their forward lines over the last few games, too. One of the reasons for the mid-game switches has been the uneven play of rookie P-O Joseph. Since taking the left-side on the top pair with Kris Letang, Joseph has had several games which didn’t equal his rock star emergence in Letang’s absence.
Penguins coaches Sullivan and assistant Todd Reirden have occasionally moved Petterson from the third pair with Cody Ceci and slotted him beside Letang, too.
“Whenever you get to play with Tanger, it’s a huge honor. He makes it easy. His skating can get out of places so well,” Pettersson said. “I think he makes you look good that way.”
The pairing hasn’t occurred often. They’ve only played eight minutes together over the last few games since both returned to the lineup. And, the numbers have been awful, too. When the pair hits the ice, the Penguins get about 33% of the shot attempts and 25% of the scoring chances.
Pettersson has formed the third pairing with Ceci since Pettersson returned three games ago. Pettersson paid Ceci a big compliment, even if he didn’t mean it as overflowing praise.
“With (Ceci), he’s a steady guy,” Petterson said. “He’s really easy to read off and play with, too.”
So, how does playing with the two differ?
“I try not to change my game too much, but whoever you’re out there with, they’re two different players and two different assets. I think it’s been going well with both players…”
By comparison, Pettersson and Ceci have pretty good numbers together. The pairing has a 55% Corsi and a 52% scoring chance rate.
The steadiness on the third pairing makes the game easier, especially for a rookie like Joseph. However, the divot when Letang and Pettersson combine is bad news. Even this writer wanted to see more of Pettersson-Letang, but the small sample size has not been encouraging.
It is a small sample size and shouldn’t be the final word. Given Joseph’s struggles lately (he was at center stage for a pair of goals against on Saturday), the Penguins coaches may have to go to it more often.
Especially if the Pittsburgh Penguins can get a few more leads.