(TORONTO, ON) — The decision is not as settled as Pittsburgh Hockey Now believed, just a few days ago. Had the pandemic pause not interrupted the NHL season, the Pittsburgh Penguins prepared to ride goalie Matt Murray into the playoffs. Coaches discussed the responsibilities and standards with both Murray and 1A goalie Tristan Jarry. All was set.
However, the world changed and the Pittsburgh Penguins coaches may make a surprise decision for Game 1 of the Qualifying Round against the Montreal Canadiens.
Multiple team sources indicated to PHN that Tristan Jarry impressed his teammates and coaches alike in training camp. Jarry showed well enough that he earned support from influential members of the organization.
The sources agreed the decision to start Murray, though probable, was not set in stone as of Tuesday night. The decision ultimately rests with head coach Mike Sullivan.
The sense PHN got from speaking with sources is that Murray will start but a few gut instincts are leaning towards Jarry.
One source confirmed the backroom discussions and potential for a surprise decision. Jarry’s camp performance was mentioned multiple times.
As we pursued the story, the decision process or the level of debate became a difficult thing to quantify, but it results from Murray’s position as the default choice. Lest anyone forgets, Murray has two Stanley Cup rings and Sullivan has repeatedly praised Murray for his ability to elevate his game in important situations.
“I think he plays his best when the stakes are high,” Sullivan has repeated since 2017.
However, Jarry opened eyes in training camp by staring down the best Penguins players, including Evgeni Malkin in several scrimmages. Jarry’s stickhandling and athletic play may be a better fit for the Penguins defenders than Murray.
Especially against the Montreal forecheck, or the Philadelphia forecheck which the Penguins admittedly had some trouble escaping on Tuesday afternoon, Jarry’s stickhandling ability and talent for making a breakout pass would add be a positive addition.
Jarry had a breakout campaign this season. He finished in the top-10 in both save percentage and goals against average. He led the league in those categories for most of November and December. The NHL also named him to the Metro Division All-Star team.
Jarry finished the season with a .921 save percentage, compared to Murray’s .899, and a 2.43 GAA, compared to Murray’s 2.87.
Statistically, the choice clearly favors Jarry, but two Stanley Cups speak loudly. So too does Murray’s performances in big games. This season, Murray stole two points in the first game against the Washington Capitals on Feb. 2.
“He was awesome. He was spectacular,” defenseman Jack Johnson said that night. “Everyone is super pumped for him. He played the way we know he is capable of playing.”
Yes, that’s why Murray was there, and will probably be there again on Saturday.