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Tristan Jarry’s season continues disturbing second half trend

The Pittsburgh Penguins starting goalie consistently sees his production and level of play drop significantly in the second half of seasons.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

When the Pittsburgh Penguins play the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night it will be Alex Nedeljkovic getting his third consecutive start in goal. It is not necessarily because he is the hot hand or playing exceptionally well. Because outside of his performance on Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, he has most definitely not been playing well. It might have more to do with the fact that Tristan Jarry is simply playing that much worse.

That also continues a rather disturbing career long trend for Jarry where he becomes increasingly unreliable as the season goes on.

Since the beginning of March the Penguins have won just two of the nine games where Jarry was the goalie of record. Those wins came against the San Jose Sharks and Blue Jackets. They are two of the worst teams in the NHL.

He has allowed a total of 36 goals in the month, posted a save percentage over .900 just four times and has allowed at least four goals in six of those starts. For the month, his save percentage is a brutal .870, a number that places him among the league’s worst goalies.

This is not the first time Jarry has slowed down late in a season.

In fact, it is becoming one of the defining characteristics of his career.

Just take a look at his month-by-month career splits in the NHL. Again, these are career numbers:

Look at those save percentages. You can not really hide from those or ignore them.

They are great in October-December and are a big reason why he has earned two different All-Star nods in his career. In the first three months of the season he consistently plays among the league’s best goalies. This season was no different.

In the first half of the year he was one of the biggest reasons the Penguins were still hanging around in the playoff race and a position to actually do something. Through the end of November he had one of the best overall save percentages in the league, was holding his own against high-danger shots (save percentage over .800, putting him in the top half of the league).

Since then? He has been one of the league’s worst, least productive goalies across the board.

It is unfair to put ALL of the blame on him because the team in front of him has also largely stunk. The defense has been atrocious and it is simply not a very good hockey team. But Jarry is not helping matters and is playing a big role in the results. It is especially alarming because it just keeps happening. Year after year. Every single season. Without fail.

The big concern on Jarry in recent years was his struggles in the playoffs. But it was easy to try and write this off a little because it was such a small sample size of games. He has played just one full playoff series in his career and then played a Game 7 after missing several weeks when it was clear he was not 100 percent healthy and probably should not have been playing to begin with. I can not fault him for that game. It was a crappy situation for everybody.

But the bigger problem is that it is not just the playoffs where his game has declined.

It is pretty much a consistent downward trend as soon as the calendar roles over to December and January.

Look at it another way: In the four full seasons (excluding the 2020-21 season ... I will get to this in a second, stick with me) he has been the Penguins’ starting goalie he has consistently posted a save percentage of .910 or better in every individual October, November or December. In only one of those individual months (out of 12) was his save percentage under .900 for a month, and only twice under .910.

But when it comes to January-April, he has posted a save percentage higher than .910 in just three of those 14 months. In one of those three months he appeared in just three games. In seven of those months it has been .904 or worse, including four times under .900.

The reason I excluded the 2020-21 season there is because that season did not start until January, and that helps illustrate what the problem is. It’s not some arbitrary thing where he just forgets how to play in the winter and spring months.

He wears down.

Because during the 2020-21 season he posted a save percentage of .910 through the first three months of the season (comparable to an October-December workload).

How did he finish that season?

Including the playoffs it was .899 the rest of the way.

At this point it is no longer just a coincidence or bad luck. It is not just an occasional slump. It is a pretty clear established trend of him wearing down and his production dropping to an almost unplayable level in the second half of seasons, no matter what months they happen in.

Injuries have also contributed to that as he has had trouble staying on the ice throughout his career, but that is also part of the problem. I do not like being critical of players for getting injured, and that is not my intention here. It is a tough sport, and goalie is one of the most physically demanding positions of them all. I do believe that in most cases injuries are more about bad luck than anything else.

The simple, harsh reality however is that the Penguins have not been able to consistently count on Jarry in the second half of seasons to either A) be available, or B) be productive.

It is a problem when you just committed a five-year, $26 million contract to him.

I understand why the Penguins did it. There were not many free agent options available, and if we are being honest here he was probably the best one on the market. Unless they dipped into the trade market (maybe they should have?) it was not going to be easy to find a clear-cut upgrade.

But now that the Penguins are committed here long-term you do have to be concerned about this trend with Jarry. It keeps happening and as he gets closer to his age 30 season (he turns 30 next April) you have to wonder if that will ever change.

The best way around this might be to either move on whenever they can in the form of a trade, or bring in a viable 1B option to split starts 50/50 with him to really cut down on his workload. The Penguins might actually need a Linus Ullmark/Jeremy Swayman situation here to balance out Jarry. I think if you put him into a position where you limit his starts he can probably maintain some effectiveness late in the year. That would not be a bad plan, by the way nor would there be any shame in it for Jarry or the Penguins.

The other option is to just simply hope that the trend reverses itself and he manages to maintain some consistency throughout the entire season in the future seasons. Hope, however, is not a plan. The Penguins either need to give him a platoon option or find a new starting goalie.