Alex Tuch circled the Pittsburgh Penguins net, uncovered by Penguins defenders. The Vegas Golden Knights forward could have tried a wrap-around but Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry was tight to the post and waiting. So Tuch continued towards the circle for a point-blank wrist shot but Jarry got tall quickly and covered the net.
It’s a play which advantages the shooter. Many goalies crouch to the post with their paddle on the ice to protect against the wrap-around. It can be difficult to quickly adjust to the changed angle and chance. Fans may remember the pair of goals the San Jose Sharks scored against Penguins goalie Matt Murray in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, including Joonas Donskoi’s overtime game-winner in Game 3 when Donskoi used the same play.
By getting tall and still, Jarry nullified the scoring chance. It was one of 25 Vegas scoring chances as they blitzed the Penguins for much of the game.
What stood between the Penguins and a second straight loss or perhaps the third overtime in four games, literally, was goalie Tristan Jarry.
“Every night is going to be different, and you’ve got to find a way to win,” Jarry said Tuesday in Vegas. “First, you put pucks on net and hopefully one or two get past them and that’s what happened tonight.”
Jarry has worked hard to say little this season, but he’s correct the Penguins hope a couple of pucks get past the opposing goalie. Jarry has allowed two goals or fewer in 15 of his 21 appearances. It should be no surprise that his record is 14-6-1 and he was named to the Metro Division squad of the NHL All-Star Game later this month in St. Louis.
“(The team) played huge in the third period. You saw the blocks we got in the final four minutes,” Jarry said referencing the Penguins stand which also included killing Evgeni Malkin’s tripping penalty in the final 2:43. “I think that helps us gain confidence for our group and helps us win.”
Confidence is the Right word
No player will say they don’t have confidence in a teammate but no one could have seen this season coming. Jarry played in 26 games in 2017-18. He posted a .908 save percentage and was a competent goalie and acceptable 2.48 goals against average. Both bumpers were in line with struggling starting goalie Matt Murray but behind now AHL goalie Casey DeSmith.
But Jarry spent last season in the AHL.
Now Penguins have two goalies, as Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan is fond of saying. Eventually one has to take the net. Now or in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Penguins twosome will become a one.
While PHN has detailed the chase and attempted to fully explain the scenario, fans are able to simply say, “Jarry,” especially those fans who comment on our Facebook feed but don’t actually read the story.
However, Sullivan has a more complex decision than simply looking at numbers or deciding who is in a groove. It will be a gut feeling and part of the decision is based on trust.
Before the regular season, Sullivan cited the hockey economics as a reason DeSmith was sent to the AHL this season. As recently as last week, Sullivan declined to admit there was an open goalie competition, which by default indicated he was playing Jarry but not committing to him.
“We certainly weren’t at our best. We got a great performance by Tristan (Jarry) in goal, and we got some opportunistic scoring,” is how Mike Sullivan characterized the Penguins 4-3 win in Vegas on Tuesday night.
Trust is earned. Standing firm against a tidal wave acquires that trust, which is what Jarry did on Tuesday night. It’s a slow process to earn that special trust and get a public vote of confidence as “the guy” because the Penguins have another goalie they think is a bonafide No. 1 netminder. Matt Murray has proven his mettle with a pair of Stanley Cups and many big-game performances.
In 2017-18, the Washington Capitals had a similar situation. Philip Grubauer was the talented backup who shoved aside Braden Holtby when Holtby struggled. Grubauer even began the playoffs as the starting goalie, but coach Barry Trotz went back to Holtby at the first sign of trouble. Grubauer had not yet cleared the trust phase and didn’t get a chance to work through it.
Jarry is still in that phase. His leash is shorter than Murray’s and that’s simply the bigger picture. But a few more nights like protecting the Penguins backside with a stellar performance against an overwhelming push will earn that trust.
With each passing day and after acing each test, Jarry is proving himself ready for those big challenges to come, beginning in April.
Editor’s note: The original story incorrectly identified the Vegas forward as Jonathan Marchessault. It was Alex Tuch. We regret the factual error.