5 things: Goaltending failing Penguins during recent playoff runs

Five stats-based observations about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 5-3 loss in Game 6 on Friday that forced a deciding Game 7 at the New York Rangers in the team’s first-round playoff series:

1. Nothing in net

The goalies themselves differ, the situations vastly so. But recent Penguins playoff flameouts have one thing in common: losing the goaltending battle.

Chris Kreider’s winner with 1 minute, 28 seconds left in Game 6 on Friday night was soft enough that the spotlight needs affixed to Louis Domingue’s play during this series. Domingue is a No. 3 goalie for a reason, and despite some admirable work for the situation he was immersed into he has also statistically been the worst goalie in the playoffs.

According to moneypuck.com, Domingue’s minus-3.4 goals saved above expected is the worst of any goalie who has appeared in at least two games during these playoffs.

Among goalies who have started at least half of his team’s games, Domingue’s minus-0.807 goals above expected saved is easily the worst of any goalie this postseason – more than twice as bad as the second-worst (Marc-Andre Fleury minus-0.304.

Domingue, statistically, is allowing almost a goal per game more than he should. That says something when each of the past two games were effectively one-goal Rangers wins (with an empty-netter added on).

2. Did we do this before?

Last season, the Penguins also had the worst goalie in the playoffs as measured to goals saved above expected, Tristan Jarry (minus-7.9).

In the 2020 playoff “bubble,” at least Matt Murray wasn’t the NHL’s worst goalie. But at minus-0.7, he still was “under water,” and in getting far out-played by his counterpart (the Montreal Canadiens ‘Carey Price was a plus-9.6) once again provides an example of goaltending providing the Penguins’ biggest postseason problem.

Even in 2019, when the Penguins were swept in the first round by the Islanders, it was the goalie matchup that got them. That year, at least, Murray was good (1.9 goals saved above expected) – but New York’s Robin Lehner was spectacular (plus-6.1)

3. Not-special teams

The raw traditional numbers aren’t that great in regards to the Penguins’ power play and penalty kill in this series. The advanced metrics provided by naturalstattrick.com aren’t much better.

Among the 16 NHL teams in the all-encompassing advanced stat of “expected goals-for percentage,” the Penguins are 16th in expected goals-for percentage on the penalty kill (1.79%) and 15th in expected goals-for percentage on the power play (75.4%).

Of special note is that the Penguins have not been credited with even one shorthanded scoring chance. Every other team in the league (even one that was swept in four games, the Nashville Predators) has at least two.

4. Blown leads

Penguins’ unofficial historian Bob Grove dug up thus nugget: Over their first 54 seasons, the Penguins had lost eight playoff games in regulation after having a two-goal lead at one point during it. Over the past three days, they did so twice.

Four of the six games in this series have featured teams blowing leads of at least two goals. Only one – Game 3, when the Penguins saw a 4-1 lead evaporate into a 4-4 tie – did the team that had the multi-goal lead end up winning the game.

The Rangers lost Game 1 after taking a 2-0 lead, and the Penguins lost both Games 5 and 6 after likewise scoring each of each game’s first two goals.

5. Confident comeback

New York’s feat of overcoming a two-or-more-goal deficit in consecutive games during which it was facing elimination had happened on just two other occasions in NHL history. Both were during the Stanley Cup Finals: the Philadelphia Flyers in 1987 and the Detroit Red Wings in 1950.

The Rangers, incidentally, forced a Game 7 after trailing a series 3-1 for the fourth time. Each of the prior three instances they did so, they won the series.

Keep up with the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at cadamski@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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