Penguins Lead Series With Rangers Despite Numerous Injuries

The Pittsburgh Penguins currently lead the New York Rangers 2-1 in their seven-game playoff series. The Rangers are favored to win the series, however, the Penguins do not seem deterred by that fact. They are playing better than they have in a month, and are two games away from advancing to the next round of the playoffs. 

Penguins’ Depth Scoring 

The big headline from Game 3 was the Penguins’ depth scoring. In the first two games, goals were only coming from the top line, however, in Game 3 the bottom six exploded. Forward Evan Rodrigues has basically been a non-factor for the better part of the second half of the season. However, that all changed in Game 3 where Rodrigues scored twice in less than five minutes during the first period to give his team a 4-1 lead. This is the kind of explosive play that fans are used to seeing from him, and he needs to continue to score goals and play aggressively in the next two games. 

Evan Rodrigues Pittsburgh Penguins
Evan Rodrigues, Pittsburgh Penguins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Left winger Brock McGinn also found the net in Game 3 putting the Penguins on the board first. He has looked like a different player in the first three games of the playoffs, and the Penguins are hoping he continues to produce on offense. Jeff Carter and Danton Heinen also had goals in Game 3. Heinen’s goal came midway through the third period breaking the 4-4 tie and ended up being the difference maker in the game. 

Forward Kasperi Kapanen has been another standout player for the Penguins. Although he has not yet scored a goal during the past three games, he has been making his presence known. Kapanen struggled through the regular season, and no one expected much from him going into the opening-round of the playoffs. However, over the last three games he has played smart, physical hockey and everyone including his coach has noticed. Kapanen has averaged 19 minutes and 55 seconds of ice time per game. He has had a few scoring  opportunities inside the blue paint, and if he continues to use his speed to his advantage it is only a matter of time until he becomes a scoring threat for the Penguins. 

Penguins’ Goaltending 

The biggest story out of Pittsburgh over the past week has been the situation at goalie. Third string goalie Louis Domingue got thrusted into double overtime during Game 1 after second string goalie Casey DeSmith left with an injury. He managed to stop all 17 shots, and helped his team get the victory in triple overtime. 

Louis Domingue Pittsburgh Penguins
Louis Domingue, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

No one expected the third string goalie to be starting in the first round of the playoffs, however, Domingue is quickly becoming a star in his own right. His current save percentage over the last three games is at a .903, and although that is not great the Penguins are still leading the series. It is likely Domingue will finish out the rest of the first round as first string goalie Tristan Jarry has barely started skating again after injuring his foot in April. The focus will remain on the third string goalie as fans and critics alike will be anxiously waiting to see if Domingue really is up for the challenge. 

Penguins’ Defense

The Penguins defensive play so far in the series has been a rollercoaster. In Game 2 and much of Game 3, the defense seemed almost non-existent. It was not until the last eight or nine minutes in the third period of Game 3 that they finally found a good rhythm. 

Related: Penguins’ Letang Has Career Year Overshadowed by Other Elite D-men

With Domingue in the net, the Penguins need their defense to be on the top of their game. Defenseman Kris Letang is a huge part of that, however, he seems to be missing his counterpart Brian Dumoulin who left the ice in Game 1 with a lower-body injury. Letang has been paired with Mike Matheson in Dumoulin’s absence and they have allowed five of the Rangers seven even strength goals. The Penguins are hoping Dumoulin can return to the lineup sooner rather than later. 

Who Will Come Out on Top?

It is no secret that this could be the last playoff run for captain Sidney Crosby, forward Evgeni Malkin and Letang as a group. The Penguins seem to be playing with more heart and purpose than the Rangers, and if they stay consistent will easily win their next two games and advance to the next round of the playoffs.