Jarry Emerges as Serious Goalie, Time to Challenge Murray
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Jarry Emerges as Serious Goalie, Time to Challenge Murray

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Tristan Jarry: Photo by Michael Miller

It’s time for Mike Sullivan and the Pittsburgh Penguins to take the training wheels off of goalie Tristan Jarry. For the good of the Penguins, it is also time to let Jarry push starter Matt Murray.

To be crystal clear, the Penguins have every reason to put Jarry in the net more often not because they need more Jarry, but because they could benefit from more Jarry and more Murray. Last season, Murray was a dominant goalie in the second half. You may remember the slightly exaggerated goalie controversy in late December when Sullivan publicly refused to say Murray was the starter and inserted backup Casey DeSmith into the conversation. From Dec. 15 to the end of the season, Murray posted a .930 save percentage.

This offseason, Sullivan challenged Murray to “stay hungry.”

In Murray’s four and a half seasons, the best stretches of his career have been when battling for the net. From his mock battle with DeSmith last season to his battles with Marc-Andre Fleury in his first two seasons, the sample size is now too large to be a coincidence.

For several reasons, including his paltry $675,000 salary, this season Jarry earned the backup role. The Penguins 2013 second-round pick had stood on his head, including when he stopped 21 of 22 but lost to Vegas (and Fleury) in October. Jarry also was the losing goalie when he stopped 45 of 48 shots against Tampa Bay on Oct. 23.

Murray’s save percentage has dipped to a below-average .907, despite the Penguins solid play in front of him. Conversely, Jarry is finally emerging from the shadows of potential into here and now. He’s been spectacular, and his save percentage is a ridiculous .945 with a 1.81 goals against average in six appearances including just five starts.

This offseason, Sullivan challenged Tristan Jarry to become more serious about the small details and to improve his practice habits. PHN prodded Sullivan Friday night if Jarry has done what the coaches asked of him. 

“Yes,” Sullivan said with some emphasis. “We’re all creatures of habit, we are what we repeatedly do. We felt as though his attention to detail and his focus in practice will translate to a more consistent game. That’s been one of the hurdles Tristan has to overcome to establish himself as a bonafide every day NHL goaltender.”

Jarry has been subdued in the locker room this season. He was previously gregarious and known as one of the boys in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but Penguins winger Jake Guentzel described him quite differently Friday night.

“Just a quiet kid who works hard every day,” Guentzel said.

RedBeard's Pittsburgh

A quick review of Jarry’s performances this season from the PHN Report Cards turned up the words spectacular and sparkling. Except for his relief appearance in Boston earlier this month in which he was pedestrian and tagged with the loss after the Penguins rallied from a 3-0 deficit, Jarry has been stellar in his five starts.

A couple of times this season, PHN has tried to get Jarry to admit he’s playing well or even to admit after a few seasons marinating in the AHL he feels like he belongs in the NHL or even if he’s taken a peek at his statistics. We’ve asked, but Jarry has deflected our questions like he has deflected most pucks this season. He did so again on Friday.

“I’m just trying to help the team win,” Jarry said softly.

The Tristan Jarry Obstacle

Jarry clearly has to earn Sullivan’s trust. Sullivan challenged his work ethic, and to this point, Sullivan has refused to start Jarry in any game other than the second of back-to-back games. It’s time for that to change. It’s time to see what Jarry, who had 29 career NHL starts before this season but just one since 2017-18, can do at the NHL level.

The Penguins former goalie-of-the-future has toiled in the minors for four seasons: Murray and DeSmith passed-by Jarry on the organization’s depth chart. Jarry’s ascension to the NHL this season may not have been purely for hockey reasons, but he’s done more than make the most of his opportunity.

“We think he has taken it to heart, and because of that, we think his overall game has translated to this point,” Sullivan said.

You’ll notice the small qualifier at the end of Sullivan’s answer. It’s not a small thing to demand a player work harder. That’s the kind of bad wrap which has kept more than a few players in the minors for a long time and the kind of wrap which is forcing Jarry to earn Sullivan’s trust.

Tristan Jarry is stopping pucks at an extraordinary rate. If he plays more often, he will not maintain a .945 save percentage, nor will he be spectacular every night, but it’s time to find out more. We know more about Murray and know the competition makes him better.

In the short term, Jarry can push Murray. Hey, Jarry has a starting goalie pedigree, and in the long run, perhaps he could even pass Murray, who is a restricted free agent after this season will be due a nice contract. While that scenario is more fan fiction than reality, Jarry has nonetheless earned more starts.

It’s time to give Jarry those starts and give Murray another challenge. The Penguins will be better for it, either way.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Jc

    November 23, 2019 at 8:44 am

    I totally agree with your article and have noticed Jarrys play from training camp that he is improved and can make a push to be a real number 1 goalie pressure is on Matt to keep his starter role and earn his big pay day contract. From my observation Jarry seems to be very calm and smooth when in net plays the puck pretty well. Not sure if the pens want to trade a goalie like Jarry when his play is accelerating and questions with how Murray wil finish the year play wise and health on top of dollar?? Good problem to have!

  2. Andy Pappas

    November 23, 2019 at 8:45 am

    I thought he earned a shot as #1 goalie 2 years ago when he played very well for a stretch of games. I do not dislike Murray, but… With Murray getting a large bump in pay, maybe Jarry could be looked at as an option long term

  3. Frank

    November 23, 2019 at 11:16 am

    It is hard to understand why the team is not taking a more intense look at Jarry . .. except for one reason. Sully is locked into Murray as “his guy.” And it does not take much reflection to know that when he does that any option to that player is destined for certain death. (see: Dominic Simon) The good news is that Murray is a good goaltender, but it is becoming increasingly clear he is not a great one. In his last 10 playoff games he is 2 and 8. That includes a deciding game overtime loss and just a fair save percentage and goals against . . . for a playoff team that sees itself as a Cup Contender. They definitely made the correct paper decision on the Murray-Fleury question. But trying to be objective . . . that decision included giving up the better goaltender. If a game is close in the third period or extended to overtime I mostly expect a loss these days. And . .. even acknowledging he is still young . . . he is good for at least one soft goal every other game. That translates to about 30 of those a year. Uhh . .. not inspiring.
    I think Jarry may be essentially the same as all of that over a longer sample of games. But maybe not . . . and I think he deserves a look. But I am not waiting for that (see above). One thing for sure, were I GMJR I would not be in any rush for a long term deal with Murray based on his play over the last couple of years Oh . . and this nonsense that Murray has to be “challenged” to play better is very disappointing. That may hold true for a 4th line wing . . . but . . . for your #1 Cup Challenger goaltender . . .nope.

    • Hatrick Pornqvist

      November 23, 2019 at 3:16 pm

      Like most, I want to see Jarry more, but I do understand why Murray has been getting so many starts. There’s several reasons in play here.

      One, Murray has some kinks to work out and is letting in weak goals more often than he should. That’s a sign of confidence being dinged up. Sullivan knows that taking away his playing time doesn’t fix confidence and is therefore not the best thing for the team overall, or for Murray.

      Two, Jarry is young and ready to prove himself, and somewhere in the back of his head knows he could be a starter here with a strong effort. If nothing else he’s auditioning league wide. Sullivan has alluded to the work ethic he wants to see and by all accounts Jarry is doing that work. Sullivan has every reason to see just how far Jarry is willing to go. In the end it pushes Jarry to be his best.

      Three, there’s the elephant in the room, Murray’s injury history. It would be foolish to not worry about it. While I’m sure the team would like to keep his minutes down to ensure he stays healthy, that’s difficult due to the aforementioned issues that could arise by sitting him. The flip side is keeping Jarry engaged but rested should he be called upon for a longer stint as the number one goalie if Murray goes down. In short, let Murray work a few things out and Keep Jarry rested and hungry.

      There are so many reasons to just point to the numbers and say Jarry should start more, and I think over time that will happen. But for now I think Sullivan is actually doing what’s best for both goalies.

      I’m happy for Jarry though. For a kid stuck in a position where his stock was dropping due to a lack of NHL playing time, he’s sure seized this opportunity to turn some heads. His play this season has probably vastly improved the odds of him having a lengthy NHL career.

  4. Ronald Chess

    November 23, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    This is a great article i have been saying fir last week to my fellow Penguin fans ,Jarry needs to play more .Looks calm ,focused and in control in net not allowing many rebounds.

  5. Cal

    November 23, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    If Jarry is earning it (his play) give it to him. Remember that’s how Murray had his start, he earned it. If Sully sticks to his playing the players that give the team the best chance to win it is Jarry right now. That may change sooner or later but it might help Murray refocus a bit. It is great he makes those dynamic pad saves but it has been after he left in a few softies or questionable ones. The attention to detail like against NYI when a screen shot that he never saw went in, easy for me to armchair coach but I didn’t see him trying to look for the puck when the screen was on. I thought he played that way too passive. If you cant see it you have to look for it IMHO. I don’t think Murray is a great goaltender but I think he is a really good one and good enough for the team to win. That being said, Jarry may very well pass him by, who knows?

  6. BIG B

    November 23, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    As Andy said he earned this two years ago but Sully is obviously not on board.Jarry has 17 wins now with little support goal wise in his career when he should have won at least 22 games.He deserved to beat Vegas and Tampa this year, last year he played two games and stood on his head and lost a close low scoring game to Boston in OT and in his rookie year he lead all rookies with 14 win with a couple of close low scoring loses in the mix.

  7. Bred Musbsalad

    November 23, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    Welcome to around a week to 2 weeks ago, Dan. Was obvious they should see what Jarrs is as weak goals whizzed by Murr at key times.
    At this point, it’s 1a/b until a winner emerges throughout this season.
    You win, you stay in unless it’s a grueling b2b.

  8. Lar

    November 23, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Jarry has played surprisingly well. DeSmith played well last year and he’s carrying wbs in the minors and playing well again. Murray has 2 qualified competitors behind him making a lot less $$$.

    Conversely Murray has been out played in most of his losses including both islanders games, Bruins, devils, rangers and panthers. That’s 9 points left on the board this year. Not good. It’s time to get ‘creative’ and Sullivan hopefully will at this point.

  9. David

    November 23, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    MM deserves high praises for his contribution to the 2 SC championships. But since the 2nd one of them, he has been average. I think that is accurate. All goalies have streaks of great goal tending and bad streaks, but between frequent injuries, MM has been overall average. DeSmith, who would have been his backup except for cap space, and Jarry, who has proven himself, could be the Pens 2 goalies. That would save the Pens a lot of cap space, since MM is going to need to be paid big $. Of course all of this has to take into account the fact that there is an expansion draft coming up in 2 years and the Pens will need to leave one goalie unprotected. But Seatlle won’t necessary get their goalie from the Pens. I say trade MM now for a good D man. There are numerous teams that would take him.

  10. Zane Gearhart

    November 23, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    Jarry definitely deserves more games, murray is playing too many games and will be burnt out with this kind of workload. Not to mention Jarry has had only great starts. I wonder if Desmith was the backup if he’d have more starts now? I believe he would because for whatever reason he earned sully’s trust and Jarry hasn’t yet.

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