Something I frequently hear about the Penguins-Rangers first-round playoff series is that Pens goalie Louis Domingue is an “X-factor” or a “variable” in the series.
I don’t see it that way. Quite the opposite. Based on what we’ve seen from Domingue so far — he allowed five goals in his first start and four goals in his second — the Penguins are probably going to have to score four or five goals in regulation per game the rest of the way to win this series.
That’s not even a criticism of Domingo. I don’t think he’s played badly. I don’t think the quality of goals he has allowed has been poor. But New York has talented offensive players, and he is an NHL journeyman. There’s only so much we can expect him to do.
Let’s not leap from acknowledging that Domingue is playing above expectations to now raising our expectations of what he can actually do moving forward.
Sure, Domingue came in and stopped all 17 shots he saw against the Rangers once Casey DeSmith got hurt in Game 1. But we can’t assume that pace is going to be easily replicated the rest of the series.
Domingue’s 4.50 goals against average and .882 save percentage over his two starts since then are indicative of that. Again, that’s not an attempt to dispare Domingue’s efforts or results. He’s to be applauded for how he has played so far. I just doubt those kinds of numbers track well enough so that the Penguins can still win this series even though they hold a 2-1 advantage.
I mean, look at it this way. If Domingue has allowed nine goals in his two starts and he has still managed to play pretty well, what’s the score going to look like if Domingue is ever off his game?
“Everybody is insisting he played well. He didn’t,” Madden said of Domingue. “He might have played average at best, but he allowed nine goals in two games. That’s too many goals, and I don’t care what the circumstances are.”
Madden pointed out some specific flaws to Domingue’s game that the Rangers may be able to exploit.
“It’s not that he gets caught out (of position) on the rebound or the second shot. He gets caught out period,” Madden said. “He knows he is poor at going side-to-side. So he cheats. He leaves early. He goes too far in his haste.”
When it comes to finding the real “X-factor” or “variable” in this series, I’d look in the other net. Igor Shesterkin stopped 118 of 124 shots over the first two games. Then he collapsed in the first period of Game 3 Saturday night, yielding four goals before the first intermission.
Trying to figure out which version of Shesterkin we might see the rest of the way, to me, is a much more impactful variable to how this series will turn out than Domingue. Madden seems to think that Shesterkin’s Game 3 performance was a fluke.
“He couldn’t find the puck. It got caught in his feet a couple of times. He was bad going to the post on that first goal. I just think he had a bad night,” Madden concluded.
Also in the podcast, Madden and I talk about replacing Brian Dumoulin, all that Penguins depth scoring we saw on Saturday and Jason Zucker’s return.
Plus we debate the Steelers quarterback situation, the Pirates’ comic failures in Cincinnati and the other NHL Eastern Conference series.
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.