The choice was made this offseason. Tristan Jarry became the Pittsburgh Penguins goalie and supplanted Matt Murray in a decision that seemed obvious even as Murray started the first three games of the Penguins four-game Qualifying Round loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
Head coach Mike Sullivan’s choice to start Murray was not without internal discussion. Based on conversations from last August, at least one inside seemed to espouse Jarry’s skills as a better fit for the Penguins against Montreal.
NHL Network analyst and former NHL goalie Jamie McLennan has been following Jarry for several years. Former Penguins goalie coach Mike Buckley “raved about the kid in the minors,” and McLennan has been following ever since.
“He’s got the skill set,” McLennan told PHN. “Every goalie has a toolbox, and Jarry’s is large. There’s so much to like; his composure, he doesn’t go chasing the puck, which for young goalies can expose a lot of holes.”
Jarry’s athletic game and stickhandling are advantages for the Penguins defense, which could be trapped by a good forechecking team. Jarry’s ability to quickly play a dump-in, either to his defensemen or the forwards at the second level, changed the game.
With Jarry in the net, opponents had a more difficult time putting Penguins defensemen on their heels. With Jarry’s stickhandling, the Penguins counter-attack game is much quicker out of its own zone.
In the postseason, Sullivan leaned on the experienced Murray and his big-game reputation, but it was the opposing goalie, Carey Price, who was the star of the series.
Now, it will be Jarry.
“Tristan Jarry reads the rush very well, uses his size to his advantage, and has a nice butterfly,” McLennan continued. “…You’ve got to bring it every night. (Winnipeg Jets) Connor Hellebuyck is a good example. It took a while, but now he’s a top goalie.”
The comparison of Jarry to former Pittsburgh Penguins goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray wasn’t lost on McLennan, who noted a young Fleury would sometimes chase the puck. And McLennan noted the difference in being the undisputed No. 1 goalie.
“(Murray) had a pretty good security blanked with Fleury on the bench. When they took that away, things were different,” McLennan said. “A goalie has to bring it every night. There’s a lot of people counting on you.’
Jarry openly admitted what the team told him in the previous seasons when he was sent to the minors. Maturity and consistency were the themes which the team harped upon, especially in practice. Obvious inferences were that Sullivan wanted Jarry to be better in practices and perhaps take them more seriously.
Sullivan gave a lengthy answer to PHN last October.
“One of the things I’ve talked a lot about with Tristan is consistency. It’s bringing it every day, regardless of how you feel or how your body feels. It’s bringing it every day,” the Penguins head coach began. “And that’s what it takes to be successful in this league–is a certain level of consistency and approach to your game day in and day out, practice or game day. It doesn’t matter. You’ve got to bring a certain level of consistency to your focus, your effort, and execution. All of those things. To this point, Tristan has done a great job.”
And Jarry’s answer lined up, too.
“That’s my mindset, and that’s been what the coaches have reiterated to me. They want me to get better every practice and every game,” Jarry said. “Every game, I’m trying to prove a little bit more to myself that I’m able to do it and that I’m consistent every night.”
And so Tristan Jarry is now the Penguins starter after proving he could do those things. PHN will note an extreme difference in Jarry from our conversations with him in 2017-18 when he played 26 games and last season. Jarry is a mellow, sometimes smiley guy, but he didn’t show much personality with the media last season.
It was part of becoming the professional the Penguins asked him to be.
Last season, Jarry didn’t just earn a roster spot. He seized his opportunity, though his real chance didn’t arrive until November. Murray was struggling, and the Penguins finally gave Jarry more than a one-off spot start on the second of back-to-back nights.
Jarry grabbed the net and refused to let go. Through November and December, Jarry vaulted to the top of the NHL goalie statistics. He peaked with a .943 save percentage and a 1.81 goals against average.
Jarry was tabbed as one of the Metro Division’s All-Stars, and he finished the season with a solid .921 save percentage. Jarry started Game 4 against Montreal and was at times spectacular, but the Penguins were shutout 2-0 in an otherwise lackluster performance in which they fired just 22 shots.
The Penguins again have an athletic goalie in net who appears capable of stealing games. Jarry did so several times last season. Perhaps being left in the minors for two seasons beyond his first real taste of the NHL shortened his NHL growth curve, and there will be less uncertainty in the future.
For the first time in four years, there isn’t a young heir apparent in the Penguins system. It’s Tristan Jarry now.