With training camp officially underway and the new NHL season looming, a big question surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins is whether or not Tristan Jarry has what it takes to be a number-one goaltender in the NHL. With the Penguins residing in the toughest NHL division, Jarry will be heavily relied upon throughout the 56-game season, as consistent goaltending will play a key factor in the success of all teams this year.
Playing against the same seven teams, eight times will be a nightmare for some goaltenders as teams will become far more familiar with their opponents’ tendencies and weaknesses. With Jarry entering his first full season as a number one goalie in the NHL, the Surrey, British Columbia-natives’ ability to fight through pressure and not fall into predictable habits will determine his overall success. Succeeding in a tough division will surely prove the 25-year-old’s worth and re-assure the organization that they made the right choice trading 2x Stanley Cup Champion Matt Murray in favor of him.
The former second-round pick (44th overall) is coming off his career-best season in which he had an overall record of 20-12-1 in 33 games for the Pens. He carried a 2.43 GAA and a .921 Save Percentage with three shutouts. These numbers understandably pushed a struggling Matt Murray off the team and landed Jarry a three-year extension worth $10.5 million dollars. However, the former Edmonton Oil King has only played in 62 career NHL games with an overall record of 34-20-4. His overall lack of experience leaves many Pens fans questioning whether or not he has proven himself as a legitimate number one.
A big positive about his game is his confidence in his ability to handle the puck. The six-foot-two, 194-pound netminder rarely makes mistakes and has shown he has elite puck-handling skill which is very helpful to his defensemen who will look to utilize their goaltenders skill-set to develop a rhythm of puck movement. This, as well as his calmness and puck-tracking ability, adds significant value to his game. But the ultimate question surrounding him is can he handle the heavy workload and consistently stop pucks against some very quick, skilled teams? He will surely need to elevate his game to outplay some talented divisional goaltenders in Tuukka Rask (BOS), Carter Hart (PHI), Semyon Varlamov (NYI), Igor Sheshterkin (NYR), Ilya Samsonov (WSH), Mackenzie Blackwood (NJD), and Linus Ullmark (BUF).
The plus-side for the Penguins is that aside from Rask and Varlamov, the rest of the division finds themselves in a similar scenario as the Pens do with Jarry. Many of the teams are depending on younger, less-experienced goalies to lead their team with a solid backup available if need be. The down-side for the Penguins is their depth at the goaltending position as it is quite weaker than the rest of the division.
Casey DeSmith will serve as the number-two for the Penguins, and having not played a single NHL game last season, this could be quite worrisome for fans. The 29-year-old spent last season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton where he had a rather disappointing year with a record of 18-18-2 in 41 games played. He tallied a 2.92 GAA and a .905 Save Percentage with three shutouts. However, the Rochester, New Hampshire-native has played in 50 career NHL games, all with the Pens and holds a 21-15-6 record with a 2.66 GAA, .917 Save Percentage, and four shutouts. Despite his positive career-record in the NHL, touting DeSmith as a reliable backup is a bit of a stretch.
This makes Jarry’s task all the more important. The team has six back-to-backs this season which will likely all feature the tandem, however expecting Jarry to play the rest of the 50 games is very unlikely. Regardless, both will feature throughout the year, and the Canadian netminders health, form and consistency will be key to making or breaking the Penguins season.
The team will open the season on the road on January 13th against Pennsylvania-rivals the Philadelphia Flyers.