It had been a difficult week for Tristan Jarry.
It started when he got pulled after allowing four goals on 16 shots in Pittsburgh's 6-5 setback to Florida on Feb. 24. Then, he allowed five goals in relief of the Penguins' 8-4 loss to Boston on March 1.
Jarry was looking to bounce back two days later against the New York Islanders, but just one minute and 11 seconds into the game, his skate got caught into the ice and forced him to stumble backwards. He couldn't recover in time to stop what would have been a harmless shot from Brandon Davidson, spotting the opponent an early lead.
That's a lot of adversity for a rookie goalie to handle, but credit to Jarry, he refocused right away and has been strong ever since, which the Penguins need more than ever with Matt Murray sidelined with a concussion.
Jarry has backstopped the Penguins to a pair of overtime wins, topping the Islanders on Saturday before beating the Calgary Flames on Monday. That victory was his 12th of the season, which ranks first among rookie goalies.
"He's a gamer," defenseman Justin Schultz said. "Whenever he's in, he's going to make big saves and he thrives in it. He's huge for us right now."
Part of what has allowed Jarry to settle in and rebound after a rough stretch is his demeanor. Casey DeSmith, who knows Jarry better than most having partnered with him the last two seasons, has referred to him as "calm, cool and collected - just casual Jars."
Jarry said that's just how he's always been, and it's been important for him to stay true to his personality and stay within himself.
"I've been a pretty laid-back person, so I think that's helped me a lot," he said. "I think just growing up, I had a lot of people help me with that and this year, (goalie coach) Mike (Buckley) has helped me a lot with it just being able to forget things quickly and be able to move on."
Head coach Mike Sullivan loves that about both Jarry and Murray, saying their innate calmness give them the ability to settle the team down. However, Sullivan added that he does talk with Tristan weekly about how to best find the balance between being calm while also being competitive.
"The discussion I have with Tristan all the time is there's a fine line between poise and nonchalance," he said. "That's part of Tristan's personality, where we want him to be poised but we certainly don't want him to be nonchalant. That's an aspect of his game where we're trying to help him grow, is just bringing that certain level of intensity to his approach every day that's going to help him continue being the goaltender we all think he's capable of becoming."
Last game, we did see some of that intensity from Jarry when it came to the Flames' physicality and his response to it. He took a lot of hits in the game, drawing two goalie interference calls, and expects more of the same if he gets the start on Wednesday in Philadelphia.
"They're another big team," Jarry said. "They like to get in front of the net, they have some guys who are great in the net-front. So I think it'll be another one of those games where we have to try to move guys as quick as we can and try to get to the rebounds before they do."
Games against the Flyers have been hard on the Penguins' goalies this year. Jarry relieved Murray in Pittsburgh's 5-4 overtime win on Nov. 27 after he was hurt on Jake Voracek's breakaway attempt. Murray then relieved Jarry in the Penguins' 5-1 victory on Jan. 2 after he left with an injury.
When it comes to protecting himself, Jarry said it will be important for him to stand his ground as much as possible.
"I think that's a big thing," he said. "I have to get my position as quick as I can and get to it before they do. I think that helps me a lot and helps me be square to the puck. When you get knocked down you have to get back up as quick as you can and get prepared for what might be coming at you."
It's going to be a tough game against a tough opponent in a tough building, but Jarry's looking forward to the challenge and continuing, as he always says, to try and get better and better.
"It's fun to play in," he said. "They're a big rival and it's going to be a playoff-like game. I think they're a great team and they've been playing really well lately, so I think it's something that's going to be a good challenge for us."