June 12, 2024

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry received public votes of confidence from coach Mike Sullivan and president of hockey operations/general manager Kyle Dubas during recent media sessions. However, Jarry’s benching over the final weeks of the season may provide a more accurate assessment of the Penguins’ internal evaluation of him, despite the positive statements made by Sullivan and Dubas.

Nevertheless, if the Penguins’ management is to be believed, Jarry is expected to remain the team’s top goaltending option going forward, despite his underwhelming performance throughout the season and his exclusion from the lineup towards the end.

Starting in late March, Jarry was replaced by Alex Nedeljkovic, who took the helm for the Penguins’ final 12 crucial games as they fought for a playoff spot. Nedeljkovic led the team to an 8-1-3 record during this period and was also given the start in the season finale on April 17, after the Penguins were eliminated from playoff contention.

The decision to turn to Nedeljkovic over Jarry, especially considering Jarry’s significant contract extension last summer, raised questions about Jarry’s standing within the team, a point acknowledged by Dubas. While Jarry’s illness in early April played a role in Nedeljkovic’s extended run, the Penguins continued to entrust Nedeljkovic with the starting role during the critical final weeks of the season.

Jarry acknowledged Nedeljkovic’s impressive performance and expressed his support for him during his time in the starting role. Despite not playing in the final weeks of the season, Jarry managed to finish tied for the NHL goalie lead in shutouts with six, showcasing his ability between the pipes.

However, Jarry’s overall performance for the season was somewhat mixed. He achieved a career-high six shutouts but also recorded a 19-25-5 record, setting a new career high in losses. His goals-against average (GAA) was 2.91, and his save percentage stood at .903, slightly lower than his numbers from the previous season.

Jarry’s struggles were evident in his number of “really bad starts,” games where his save percentage fell below 85%, which more than doubled compared to the previous season. Additionally, his performance in March, with a 2-6-1 record, 4.44 GAA, and .870 save percentage, contributed to his eventual backup status.

Reflecting on his performance, Jarry acknowledged both positives and areas for improvement. While he believed he had a decent year and remained healthy throughout, he recognized the need for more consistency to benefit the team. Jarry expressed a desire to elevate his game further and provide steadier performances to put the Penguins in a better position to succeed.

Potentially parting ways with Jarry would represent a significant shift in direction for the Penguins, considering his recent long-term contract extension.

However, there have been no indications from Dubas or Sullivan suggesting such a move is being considered at this time.

Dubas did highlight the progress of 22-year-old goaltender Joel Blomqvist, who excelled as an AHL All-Star for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season and is aiming for a spot on the NHL roster next season.

Despite the possibility of playing behind Nedeljkovic or facing competition from Blomqvist in the future, Jarry expressed contentment with his situation in Pittsburgh.

“I signed a long-term contract because I want to stay here,” Jarry affirmed. “That has always been my intention, and it remains so.”

Dubas, Sullivan, and the Penguins are hopeful that Jarry will use the offseason to make improvements before entering his seventh full NHL season.

“What excites me most about Tristan is that this is a pivotal moment in his career,” Dubas remarked. “He has the opportunity to respond to adversity and silence any doubts or questions. It’s a test of his resilience and character.”

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