It was Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry’s league-leading fifth shutout that highlighted the Penguins’ 3-0 rout of the Seattle Kraken on Sunday afternoon.
Jarry completely and confidently outdueled the Kraken’s Joey Daccord, the NHL’s hottest netminder over the past month. He also helped put an end to the Kraken's nine-game winning streak.
It was the type of performance many would expect from a goalie who just last summer inked a five-year deal carrying an average annual value of $5.375 million. That’s 1A, bona-fide starting goaltender money in this NHL.
The signing came just weeks after journeyman Adin Hill backstopped the Vegas Golden Knights to a Stanley Cup championship.
Hill carried an average annual value of just $2.175 million. Many teams are now emulating the Golden Knights by spending money elsewhere on their rosters and riding a goaltending duo on cost-effective deals.
The Jarry signing was a clear indicator of two things: that the league’s goalie market was weak and that Penguins GM Kyle Dubas believed Jarry could take the lion’s share of starts while backstopping Sidney Crosby and Co. to another title.
Even before former Penguins GM Jim Rutherford dealt two-time Stanley Cup champion goaltender Matt Murray to the Senators in 2020, Jarry was assumed to be the Penguins’ goalie of the future waiting in the wings.
Jarry had thrived in the American Hockey League, sporting a .915 save percentage and 2.55 goals against average. He appeared thoroughly seasoned and ready for prime time, even if his playoff results with Wilkes-Barre Scranton were less than ideal.
But as many know, Jarry has been far from a model of consistency since he became a Penguins regular in the 2019-20 season. Jarry has recorded save percentages of .921, .909, .919 and .909. This season, he sports a .916 save percentage.
While all five seasons of his sample size are well above league-average save percentage, they still tell a story of inconsistency that Penguins fans have become all too familiar with come playoff time.
In eight career NHL playoff games, Jarry has posted an abysmal 2-6 record with a 3.00 goals against average and an .891 save percentage.
It is with that shadow looming over Jarry that he has put together a season that looks good on paper, but represents all the issues and shortcomings that we’ve come to expect from the 28-year-old. While he's avoided the injury trouble that he ran into in previous seasons, his body of work leaves something to be desired.
While Jarry’s surface stats are good, they can be misleading. His 12 wins in 29 starts are evidence of his propensity to make mistakes at the worst possible time.
In his past 10 starts, Jarry has recorded two shutouts. In that span, he also allowed three goals on seven shots against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 2 and four goals on 14 shots against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 16. Then again, he is sporting a very respectable .914 save percentage over those games.
Jarry may be one of the NHL’s best examples of a goaltender who can dramatically steal games for his team, but also single-handedly lose them.
Just take a look at his embarrassing debacle from the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, in which Jarry gift-wrapped an overtime goal to the New York Islanders’ Josh Bailey in a crucial Game 5.
Or have a gander at this puzzling gaffe (5:23) from last April against the Chicago Blackhawks, which resulted in a loss that cost the Penguins a playoff berth for the first time in 16 seasons.
Putting aside Jarry’s tendency to implode under pressure, his analytics paint a rosier picture. This season, he’s saved 9.2 goals above expected. His goals against average is 0.34 better than expected. Those marks are tenth and eleventh in the league among goalies with at least 15 games started, respectively.
There isn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind that Jarry has the potential to heat up down the stretch and provide the Penguins with elite goaltending in the playoffs. We’re talking about a two-time NHL All-Star (2020, 2022) and a fringe Vezina Trophy candidate at various points.
The big playoff glow-up just hasn’t happened yet, so fans have every right to be just as skeptical of Jarry this year. Only a deep run will prove whether this is a new Jarry.