For once, Marc-Andre Fleury was not the scapegoat for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ playoff ouster.
With exception to that Game 4 blunder in the first-round against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Fleury stood tall behind a lackluster defense, a sporadic offense, and was one of the main reasons Pittsburgh won the games they did.
Although he still had some of his Fleury-like moments, the 29-year-old butterfly netminder made key saves when his team needed it most, and he also tied for the league-lead in shutouts (2) – granted it was against an ineffective (at the time) Rangers’ offense.
However, Fleury’s contract is set to expire after the 2014-15 campaign, and his future with the Pens is uncertain.
Despite the overhaul Pittsburgh is expected to endure this summer, Fleury deserves the chance to play-out his deal and start for the Penguins next season. But the odds he re-signs after that is doubtful. Why? Because Pittsburgh’s got a handful of goaltenders developing in their system.
One of which is Tristan Jarry.
Jarry, 19, was selected by Pittsburgh in the second-round (44th overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and is excelling in the Western Hockey League (WHL) playing for the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Jarry had an incredible regular-season.
Leading all WHL goaltenders in wins (44), shutouts (8), and goals-against-average (2.14), Jarry shouldered the load for the Oil Kings, and was without a doubt the top netminder in the league. He also collected the Vaughn Canadian Hockey League’s (CHL) Goaltender of the Week award in November.
Those regular-season efforts have now translated to the postseason.
Ranking first amongst goalies in wins (16), shutouts (3), and games played (21), Jarry basically leads in goals-against-average (2.19) as well, considering he’s started 15 more contests than the leader. And when you think about it, that’s phenomenal, considering the more games you play, the increased likelihood your GAA will drop. He’s also garnered Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week honors twice in the playoffs.
Jarry’s outstanding contributions are an obvious reason the Oil Kings are vying for the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup Sunday.
Stonewalling 46-of-49 shots in the Oil Kings’ semifinal matchup with the Val d’Or Foreurs on Friday – in which they won 4-3 in triple overtime – Jarry helped guide Edmonton to the Championship Final, after playing in what was the longest tilt ever in Memorial Cup history.
So, given all this information, Pittsburgh has found themselves quite the needle of the haystack.
While I’m in no way saying Jarry’s roster spot on Pittsburgh is predetermined for 2015, he certainly has the stones to become a durable, reliable netminder in the future. And his presence will also seal Fleury’s fate, because depending on how much money Fleury demands will be how Pittsburgh handles him.
However, sooner or later, Pens’ fans will be seeing a lot of Jarry. He’s still got a ways to go, but his outlook is through the roof.
Don’t believe me? Watch him go for the MasterCard Memorial Cup, Sunday, at 4 p.m., on the NHL Network.
Tags: Pittsburgh Penguins