Tristan Jarry immediately knew the quote I wanted to hear. He quickly flashed a smile before he shifted into a preprogrammed answer. He stuffed my question like he’s stopped 48 of the 51 pucks which have been hurled at him in two starts this season.
In a court of law, my question would be labeled as leading, but the premise rings more true with each NHL start. Tristan Jarry is an NHL goalie. It hasn’t been an easy path, either. He has had to fight his way to the NHL, and even now it seems no more secure than a rickety jungle bridge in every action movie ever. The Pittsburgh Penguins young goalie was once seen as the heir apparent to Marc-Andre Fleury but few funny things happened to those plans as Matt Murray rocketed past Jarry on the organization depth chart, then Casey DeSmith did the same.
Jarry’s ability or puck stopping skills weren’t necessarily his impediments to the NHL life, either. In addition to the logjammed depth chart, Jarry also has to prove he was mentally ready for the NHL grind. You can infer the situation from head coach Mike Sullivan’s comments on Monday before the Penguins departed for Florida.
Here is the full answer, since the words and between the lines speak volumes.
“I think there is a maturity level that occurs with the evolution of a player,” Sullivan said. “Nothing is taken for granted. There is value in the development process and spending time playing in the American League, which is a really good league. I have to believe those experiences have served Tristan well. For me, it’s about maturity.”
Then Sullivan really got the heart of the matter for those who may have wondered why Jarry has been relegated to third on the depth chart, despite a pedigree which many think equates to a starting NHL goalie.
“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. 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.”
Indeed, to this point, Jarry has been a brick wall in his two starts. He was tagged with two goals against Saturday despite the second being an empty-net tally. Jarry had not made it all the way to the bench when the puck hit the twine, so his overall numbers have that asterisk.
PHN also talked to Tristan Jarry on Monday before the road trip. No, I couldn’t get him to admit that he belongs in the NHL.
“Uh…I think I’m just trying to get better every game and every practice. That’s my mindset and that’s been what they 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.”
In this case, the conversations between the coach and the player seem to lineup exactly.
Jarry’s preparation includes the warmup, too.
“It helps to get off to a good warmup, feeling the puck right away, getting into the game. It helps when the guys are talking as much as they did (Saturday night),” Jarry said. “And it was three or four puck handles before I even got a shot. That always helps when the team is talking to you and doing as much they did.”
Despite the scoring anomaly, Jarry still has a 1.52 goals against average and a .941 save percentage in two games. The Penguins coaches may not have chosen Jarry over DeSmith if all things were equal but the salary cap crunch at the end of training camp was oppressive. Jarry saved the team about $300,000 by keeping him and demoting DeSmith to the WBS Penguins.
In fact, for all of training camp, Jarry had the “extra” locker stall set up at the Penguins practice facility in Cranberry. His stall was a portable locker in the corner of the room, separated from the team.
However, Jarry has thus far seized the opportunity. He may have been overshadowed Saturday against Fleury’s acrobatic saves and nine-lives luck, but Jarry was stellar. He allowed only one goal and that was a defensive breakdown that left two Vegas players alone in front.
Jarry has made 31 starts in his NHL career, including 29 during Matt Murray’s injury-filled 2017-18 season. Jarry has a .908 career save percentage and 2.74 goals against average but in full disclosure, most of those starts were behind a team that was disinterested in the defensive zone.
By tonight, Tristan Jarry will have completed his pre scouting work with goalie coach Mike Bales. He’ll know the obvious–watch out for those guys named Nikita Kucherov and Stamkos. But if Jarry is able to maintain this level of play, it may not be long before opposing teams discuss how to beat that backup goalie named Jarry. Or another team makes him their starter.
It sounds like Jarry got the message, even as he chuckled when we concluded our chat. He knew the real answer to my question was, “yes, I believe I’m an NHL goalie,” and that he made a figurative pad save on my question. He is an NHL goalie and he finally has an opportunity to prove it.