December has given the Pittsburgh Penguins (17–9–4) a positive start.
They finished November facing off against the St. Louis Blues (18–7–6), the first-place team in the Central Division. After the Pens scored only two goals, St. Louis won the first of its two-game matchup against Pittsburgh, 5–2. Despite both the Blues and Pens going through the process of injury, each team managed to pull out wins.
The Penguins decided to start their backup goaltender Tristan Jarry. Over the years, Jarry has been filtered in and out of the league, bouncing between the AHL affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and the NHL. After Casey DeSmith was sent down to the minor league, Jarry was moved up. They both have proven their worth over their season with each team, but DeSmith simply took up too much cap space.
Fortunately for DeSmith, he was looking to stay in Pittsburgh as opposed to being sent to waivers where another team could pick him up. Therefore, Jarry is the backup net-minder for this season.
Jarry has played 11 games so far for the Penguins. With a record of 7–4–0, it’s clear he’s feeling good about himself, in addition to having some timely and spectacular saves, ones that could turn the favor toward the other team.
Jarry is helping keep this fractured Pittsburgh team winning, and that’s all you could ask for from your backup goaltender, especially when your starting goaltender is going through a rough patch but will find his confidence soon enough.
Matt Murray got back in the net against last-place team and division rival, the Detroit Red Wings (7–21–3). The players were there to help Murray out on the shooting front. Five different Penguins tallied a goal through the Saturday night matchup in Detroit. The final score ended at 5–3.
Prior to that game, Jarry collected back-to-back shutouts against two first-place teams. The first game in the week was the second of two matchups versus the Blues. Despite losing in the first game in St. Louis, they were back in Pittsburgh on Wednesday to take on the Blues.
It was a 28-shot shutout, and Pittsburgh scored a goal through each period, including a goal by newly signed Stefan Noesen. Noesen scored his first goal against the Blues in the second period. Noesen’s celebration was an indication that he’s just happy to be playing with the Penguins and winning, too. Jarry’s confidence rose the team’s confidence in a big win of the week.
Following the Blues game, the Arizona Coyotes (18–10–4) arrived at PPG on Friday. It was also Phil Kessel’s first time back since being traded to the Yotes. Arizona is currently tied for first place in the Pacific Division with the Edmonton Oilers (18–10–4).
But it seems Jarry was well-prepared for the return of his old friend and the rest of the Coyotes after he rallied for another shutout. Pittsburgh won 2–0, the two scorers being Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Tanev on an empty-netter.
The win wasn’t the only positive thing to come out of the Arizona game. Two players made their return to the lineup: Bryan Rust and Justin Shultz. “Rusty” has tallied 17 points in 16 games. Despite missing the beginning of the season then a few odd games, he’s having himself a fire start. Rust is one of many to bring a spark to a slowly healing lineup.
Pittsburgh’s next game did not go as well as the past few for Jarry. The Pens’ win streak was snapped by Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens (14–11–6). Jake Guentzel scored first in the first, but that would be the only goal scored by Pittsburgh. This year has seen a different kind of second period team from Pittsburgh, but they can’t be perfect all the time.
Jarry let in three goals in the second, the first being a power play goal by Tomas Tatar. The second came after a delayed penalty call and bad turnover in the neutral zone by Kris Letang, and third was a wrap-around from Shea Weber. Then, Montreal put the game away after scoring a late empty-netter.
Pittsburgh plays seven more games following Saturday’s matchup against Columbus, including a West Coast swing and a home-and-home series with Nashville.