Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry earns All-Star Game nod, Jake Guentzel counting on fan vote

By Mike DeFabo

LOS ANGELES — Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry’s bounce-back season has earned league-wide recognition.

The 26-year-old netminder has been named the Penguins’ representative at the 2022 All-Star Game, which will be played on Feb. 5 in Las Vegas. It’s the second time in his young career that Jarry has received this honor. He also participated in the 2020 All-Star Game.

While the first appearance acknowledged Jarry as rising name in the game, this one was made possible thanks to his ability to respond to adversity.

After Jarry’s disappointing postseason performance against the New York Islanders, some questioned whether the Penguins should move on to find another answer in net. However, general manager Ron Hextall expressed his faith in Jarry, believing that one poor series shouldn’t define a young goalie.

“[Hextall] and I had a lot of conversations over the summer,” Jarry said earlier this year. “That was something that motivated me. It motivated me to be better, to work harder every day. I wanted to prove to them that they weren’t making a mistake.”

The stats speak for themselves.

Entering Thursday’s game against the Kings, Jarry has accumulating an 18-6-4 record. Only Juuse Saros (20) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (20) have won more games than Jarry this season. Among goaltenders with at least 10 games played, Jarry’s 1.91 goals-against average leads the league. His .932 save percentage and three shutouts both rank third in the NHL.

On several instances, Jarry has responded the right way following tough moments. One of the bigger turning points during this season came in mid-November. Jarry allowed six goals during a blowout loss to the rival Washington Capitals. He said he took that outing “personally.” Since that outing, he’s posted a .944 save percentage, a 1.46 goals-against average and three shutouts.

Each All-Star team consists of 11 players. The initial 10 players for each team include a team captain as voted in by the fans and nine players selected by NHL Hockey Operations. The captains are Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, and Alex Ovechkin.

Guentzel counting on fan vote

An injury kept Jake Guentzel from appearing his first All-Star Game in 2020. Now, he’s relying on fans to get him in the game for the first time in his career.

Guentzel is the Penguins’ candidate for the “Last Men In.” The final skater for each division will be chosen via fan voting through Jan. 17 at The four ‘Last Men In’ winners will be announced on Jan. 18.

Despite dealing with COVID-19 to start the year and missing about four weeks with a broken knuckle, Guentzel leads the Penguins in goals (18) and points (35). His 18 goals are better than all but 10 skaters in the entire league this year. His 25 points are tied for 23rd most.

In 2020, Guentzel learned he had been named to his first career All-Star Game on Dec. 30. But just hours later, he crashed shoulder-first into the boards. He sat out not only the game but also the remainder of the regular season as he recovered.

Sid snubbed?

Given his stature, Sidney Crosby was a notable name missing from the NHL’s All-Star Game roster. Limited to just 23 games this year due to injury and illness, Crosby has tallied five goals and dished out 19 assists. However, ask players around the league and they agree that Crosby remains one of the NHL’s elite. He’s also, arguably, the most-marketable star in the game.

Kris Letang also had a strong case. Only six blue liners in the league have tallied more points this season than Letang’s 29. The defenseman is also playing some of the most-responsible defensive hockey of his career. He’s one of the many reasons the Penguins rank second in the league in goal-prevention, allowing just 2.46 goals per game.

Evan Rodrigues is another player who could have been in consideration. He’s been one of the biggest surprises of the NHL season. His 15 goals are tied for 23rd most in the league this year.

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