It’s a light-hearted day as Christians the world over celebrate the resurrection. On Saturday, it was a sour day in Pittsburgh Penguins land as the team dropped yet another tight game to a good team. The playoffs are looming, and goaltending will be a significant issue, as well as the Penguins’ middle-six.
Of course, struggle also means the social media competition increases to be right about the impending Penguins’ doom.
If one more person uses the phrase, “I’ve been saying since…” regarding a Penguins first-round loss, I may be forced to Dox you. The fatalists sometimes make this job drudgery and the comments section unbearable. Relax. There’s no points system for most dire predictions.
(Doxing was sarcasm, by the way).
The Pittsburgh Penguins will be an underdog in their Round One series. That’s just a fact.
On Saturday, we learned Tristan Jarry would be out week-to-week. Dave Molinari and Mike DeFabo finally confirmed the story on Saturday night that Jarry has a broken bone in his foot. That means Jarry isn’t out for a week or two, but probably several weeks, which pushes into Round One or beyond.
Now, here’s where it gets ironic.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins Playoffs
The Penguins are battling the Washington Capitals for third place in the Metro Division. The winner will presumably play the New York Rangers, right? Many readers have asserted that falling to the wild-card spot would be good because the opponent would be the Carolina Hurricanes, with whom the Penguins are pretty competitive.
However…that’s probably wrong.
New York is red hot and about to overtake Carolina for the top spot in the Metro. The Boston Bruins have tied the Penguins in points (97) and have two games in hand. Combine those, and the Pittsburgh Penguins winning third place is probably vital to their survival. Third place probably means the Carolina Hurricanes in Round One, and a wild card means…the Florida Panthers.
Florida is a beast. They are rolling four lines with ill-intent and destroying teams. No one will predict more than a five-game series if such a matchup with the Penguins occurs. We’re talking Dexter’s table here.
However, should the Penguins get third place, it appears Carolina may be in a similar injured spot as the Penguins. Frederik Andersen had to leave the game after a scary injury on Saturday night. He caught a skate blade, or his leg buckled–it was a solo act, no contact. He had to be helped off the ice.
The Penguins have a fighting chance against Carolina. Get healthy, get some momentum. Who knows where it leads. Draw Florida in Round One…that’s like me drawing Bob Pompeani in Round One of Joey Bag of Donuts’ annual media personalities pool. (Last year, he gave me Mike Lange in Rd. 1. He’s evil).
2. Jeff Carter
The Penguins need more. A lot more from Big Jeff Carter. On Saturday, the Penguins second line accounted for one shot and zero scoring chances. That’s been a recurring trend lately. Since signing a two-year contract on Jan. 26, Carter has 16 points (7-9-16) in 35 games, which isn’t bad, but he is a minus-nine in that time.
Carter has been a minus in every game in April and is a minus-10 this month.
The team cannot continue to be a one-line team, relying solely on Sidney Crosby and the power-play for offense.
Jeff Carter has played 71 games, and maybe the 36-year-old center needs a break before the playoffs?
3. Funny Feelings
I’ve had a funny feeling all season that Louis Domingue would factor into the Penguins’ destiny, and in a good way. The training camp story still feels like yesterday. If you don’t remember, Domingue alluded to struggles over the last couple of years, and his wording was a little bit surprising. I asked him to clarify because I didn’t want to put words in his mouth and say he had lost motivation. Instead, he said it. And much more. And he also talked about the fire that new Penguins goalie coach Andy Chiodo gave him.
After his stellar preseason (he stole a game with the Penguins AHL lineup against Buffalo’s starting lineup) it was a surprise to me that neither Buffalo nor Edmonton snagged him on waivers. Especially Buffalo.
When he got his NHL chance in January, bad luck befell Domingue after a brilliant road win over the San Jose Sharks. He stopped 40 of 41 shots and stole two points for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was slated to start the next game back in Pittsburgh but suffered a broken bone in his foot during the morning skate.
I don’t believe in good luck but in preparation and hard work. And harder work. Domingue has been on a course all season to reassert his NHL career. He has a .924 save percentage with the WBS Penguins and has been very, very good by all accounts.
I am NOT opining that the Penguins push Casey DeSmith aside. I’ll never use the phrase, “see what he’s got.”
He’s played 141 NHL games in his career. The Penguins management watches the WBS Penguins closely. They know what he’s got. That’s kind of their job.
It would protect DeSmith just a bit by playing Domingue in a couple of the Penguins’ final games. The smaller the book the Round One opponent has on DeSmith, the better. And maybe, only maybe, Domingue is the cinderella story you’ve been waiting for.
Of course, if DeSmith or Domingue doesn’t perform well, our comments section will be full of people writing, “I’ve been saying since….they should have traded for a goalie!”
For the record, PHN looked into the goalie market last summer. The prices were exorbitant. Recall the Colorado Avalanche’s ransom for Darcy Kuemper (solid prospect Connor Timmins, a first-rounder and conditional third-rounder).
Journeyman Scott Wedgewood (fourth-rounder), a faded Carter Hutton (future considerations), and minor leaguer Andrew Hammond (minor league player) were the only backup goalies dealt near the deadline.
Editor’s note: We added the word backup to clarify the premise.
None are better than what the Penguins currently have. Could the Penguins have traded for a goalie? No, not really. It just wasn’t feasible.
And, if you’d like to subscribe to PHN+, for Easter Sunday only, I’ll take pounds of Swedish Fish or DOTS.