Louis Domingue is still on deck to go down in Pittsburgh Penguins lore as the third goalie who won a playoff series. Beyond Jeff Zatkoff, who won a playoff game, Domingue must avoid injury, stop enough pucks to keep the Penguins in games against Igor Shesterkin and the New York Rangers, and perhaps eat more spicy pork.
Shelly Anderson covered practice for PHN on Friday. She asked if we had written a story on Domingue eating spicy pork in Game 1… We did not. We did five other stories in the aftermath of the Penguins series flipping win, so there–I mentioned it.
Stopping pucks is the paramount task of Domingue, and keeping rebounds clear of the Penguins net is the job of the Penguins defensemen. Those are just a few of the five Penguins takeaways from the first two games in New York.
Sidenote–it felt good to be back on the road. I avoided a 2 a.m. slice of pizza, but I found a street cart with gyros that were nothing like I’ve ever had. The vendor added a spicy red sauce to the tzatziki sauce, which was terrific. He didn’t use tomatoes, though? He’s on the corner of 7th and 31st if you go.
5 Pittsburgh Penguins Observations & Needs
1. Domingue is an NHL goalie, but…
Louis Domingue needs to quiet his game. He’s shown a lot of movement for a 6-foot-3 goalie, and I suspect that’s part of getting dialed into the situation. New York slipped a few through the five-hole on Thursday before Domingue could get the paddle down to protect.
The Penguins can win with him in net. He made several big saves, but he opened some holes in his movements. They don’t appear to be unfixable flaws.
He’ll be in the NHL next season with someone. He’s got confidence and an outgoing personality. He’s ready to return to the show.
2. EBUG Emergency?
Also, I have no idea what the league would do if Domingue were ill for a game or two. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ other healthy goalie on an NHL contract behind new backup Alex D’Orio is 21-year-old Taylor Gauthier, signed on March 1. Gauthier was undrafted. He signed a three-year ELC after completing an overage season with the Portland Winterhawks.
He has not played a professional game and is currently involved in the WHL playoffs.
The NHL made rules never to see an unqualified goalie in an NHL game. I’m not sure they anticipated going five deep in a playoff series. I suppose the emergency backup would dress as the backup goalie?
3. Casey DeSmith future…
Casey DeSmith had core muscle surgery and is out for the season. It’s bad luck and bad timing. That’s two consecutive springs he’s been unavailable when the Penguins needed him most. The best ability is availability, and these injuries could change DeSmith’s future. His contract is also up this summer.
DeSmith may find himself on the wrong end of a two-way deal in July.
4. Where have you gone, Jeff Carter? A lonely fanbase turns its eyes to you…
Jeff Carter does not look like Big Jeff Carter. The assertive fan favorite with gummy candy and beer memes has gone colder than a six-pack on ice. He had four goals in five games against the New York Islanders in Round One last season, and there were similar expectations that he would be a playoff performer this season.
He has eight shots on goal and 12 attempts, but his line is not producing at 5v5.
Against a fast team like New York, the Penguins need the third line to control the puck in the low zone and make New York work. The Penguins also need that third line to put a couple in the net. That’s easier written than done with Shesterkin in the net, but Carter has not been good enough.
Game 3 is the perfect time to bust out of his slump. He had three goals and three primary assists in April.
In Game 2, the Carter line had one high-danger chance. Brock McGinn and Evan Rodrigues are playing on their toes. Maybe it’s a bad mix for Carter, but I don’t think so.
He’s an intelligent guy and a popular guy in the room. If he has anything left in the tank, he’ll find it.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ defense has done a solid job of keeping the net-front clear. They haven’t lost the net-front battles in this series. In fact, they may be winning them. The Penguins dominated both the offensive and defensive crease in Game 1.
Mark Friedman pushed for all his worth against any Ranger that went near the net in Game 2. I liked the Penguins defense in that area, but New York did get a couple of deflection goals. One was in the slot.
Overall, the Penguins are winning the battle, but they have to add even more traffic in front of Shesterkin and redouble efforts to keep traffic from Domingue. Shesterkin stops deflections like no goalie I’ve seen in recent memory. He reads the puck off adjacent sticks brilliantly.
Rebounds have been the Penguins’ best friend, specifically the Sidney Crosby line.
The Penguins are getting crushed physically in the first periods. Ryan Reaves is a bull, and he’s pounding away on the Penguins, but only in the first period. You’ll notice by the third period that stuff ends.
Mark Friedman was on a collision course with him, and if Friedman plays again in Game 3, I’ll bet a donut they tangle. Friedman is just crazy enough to fling himself into a hit against Reaves and stare back.
However, I don’t think the Rangers’ physicality has had much effect on the series. It undoubtedly incited the New York crowd (boy, they are fun and energetic), and it picked up the New York Rangers, but it didn’t deter the Penguins.
Colleague Dave Molinari thought the extra beating in Game 1 inspired John Marino. The defenseman didn’t think so, but it certainly got him into the game, and he had one of his best games, as Dave noted in his Game 1 column.