Jarry’s key to resilience for the Penguins as stars deny injuries
PITTSBURGH (AP) – The Pittsburgh Penguins still believe in Tristan Jarry. Perhaps more importantly, Jarry’s belief in himself didn’t …
PITTSBURGH (AP) – The Pittsburgh Penguins still believe in Tristan Jarry. Perhaps more importantly, Jarry’s self-confidence hasn’t wavered after a nightmarish indoctrination in playoff hockey last spring.
Jarry and fellow goalie Casey DeSmith were two of the main reasons Pittsburgh won the East Division title in the 2020-21 season truncated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The momentum, however, failed to continue until the playoffs.
Entering the playoffs as the No. 1 goaltender for the first time, Jarry was largely outplayed by New York’s Ilya Sorokin and literally handed the Islanders Game 5 when he tried to clear in double overtime straight to the stick of Josh Bailey of New York, which converted him into a series-changing winner. A collapse midway through Game 6 followed, leading to another long offseason after the Penguins failed to come out of the first round for the third straight year.
Yet rather than seek help elsewhere, the Penguins held on, proof that the organization’s confidence in Jarry has not waned.
“He’s a very capable guy,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “He played a lot of really good hockey for us during the stretches of the season last season. And so we are looking for a little more consistency.
The same goes for Jarry, who relied on the tight-knit goalkeeper community for his support. The 26-year-old has spent much of the summer training in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada alongside other pros familiar with the roller coasters that come when you make a living by purposely trying to stop a piece of vulcanized rubber from rolling down. to you at speeds well above the speed limit.
“I think the guys I trained with really helped me, they pushed me to be better and better,” he said. “And I think that will help me.”
If the Penguins are to extend their 15-year streak to reach the playoffs – currently the longest active streak of any franchise in major North American sports – Jarry will need to regain the form that made him an All-Star surprise in 2020.
Goals seem to be harder to hit, at least at the start of the season, with stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin missing. Crosby is expected to miss the first two weeks as he recovers from left wrist surgery, while Malkin won’t be back until Thanksgiving at the earliest after undergoing knee surgery in June.
Their absence means that the leeway that the Penguins enjoyed for nearly two decades is gone. And whenever the franchise cornerstones return, they’ll both be in their mid-thirties.
It’s time to find out if the players Crosby and Malkin mentored are capable of carrying a heavier load.
JAKE AND COOKING
Forward Jake Guentzel scored 23 goals and missed a game last season, an important step forward after a shoulder injury marred a breakout campaign in 2019-20. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Guentzel worked to add some strength to its frame during the summer. Its durability is essential for a team that thinks they are once again relying heavily on the first two lines to manage the score.
Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang are entering the final year of their respective contracts. Malkin is 35 years old. Letang is 34 years old. Both have their names on the Stanley Cup three times.
Letang tries to block out the noise about his uncertain future. He played one of the best hockeys of his career last season limiting the number of botched mistakes that had cropped up in his game over the past few years. At some point, the Penguins will have to leave the Malkin / Crosby / Letang troika that has carried them for so long. The moment may finally have arrived.
Jeff Carter caused a stir last season after being acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings. The 16-year-old veteran has accumulated 13 goals in 20 games (including the playoffs) and has chosen to return rather than retire due to his belief that there is a lot of life left in his 36-year-old legs.
Carter will likely anchor the first row during Crosby’s absence, then drop back down to the second row until Malkin comes back. That’s a lot to ask of someone who has played more than 1,200 games (post-season included). Carter will do what he can but knows he can hardly do it alone.
“I’m not going to replace (Crosby and Malkin),” he said. “I think it’s going to have to be throughout the roster. You know, I’ll do my part to take some of that pressure off. But we’re going to need it from everyone.
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