Penguins' Burke: Hextall's support of Jarry after playoff exit was 'critical'
With Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry coming off his second All-Star Game appearance amid a strong start to the season, general manager Ron Hextall certainly looks wise for sticking with him.
After helping the Penguins finish atop the realigned East Division during the shortened 2020-21 campaign, Jarry struggled in the playoffs, putting up an .888 save percentage in six games against the New York Islanders en route to the Penguins' hasty first-round exit.
Penguins president of hockey operations Brian Burke said Hextall's support of Jarry after his significant struggles was "critical."
"People are saying, 'Oh, you've got to get a goalie.' Ron Hextall said to me as soon as the playoffs were over, 'We don't need a goalie,'" Burke told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Seth Rorabaugh. "And he told Tristan that: 'We're not looking for a goalie. We believe in you.'
"When your (general manager) tells you that, that means a lot. But when your (general manager) was a pretty phenomenal NHL goaltender, that means even more. ... It was huge."
A couple months after the Penguins' early exit, Hextall said he firmly expected Jarry to bounce back in 2021-22, and the 26-year-old has repaid the faith so far. Jarry has registered a sparkling .923 save percentage and a 2.21 goals-against average heading into the All-Star break.
Burke also noted that Jarry's playoff struggles weren't out of the ordinary given the fact that 2020-21 was his first year as the full-time starter in Pittsburgh following Matt Murray's departure.
"You look at (ex-Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury), I think had a couple of tough playoffs. (Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei) Vasilevskiy. (Montreal Canadiens goaltender) Carey Price," he said. "So for a player to scuffle a little bit early on, that's not unusual."
Despite battling through a myriad of injuries, the Penguins are currently third in the deep Metropolitan Division with a 27-11-8 record.