The Penguins' first playoff series win in four years is within grasp in Game Five.
2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs Round One, Game Five: Penguins at Rangers in New York, NY
A Stanley Cup Playoffs series win. That's the magical place the Penguins have not been to four straight seasons after the unprecedented success of their two Stanley Cup and three-playoff run span. That magical run started in the fall of 2015 and stretched into the second round in late spring 2018 until the team finally ran out of gas.
The time between then and now has been one filled with monumental changes for the team. Huge, beloved names like Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, Justin Schultz, Conor Sheary, Matt Murray, team architects Jim Rutherford, Bill Guerin, and David Morehouse, and even owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle are gone. There has been a major injury for almost every single star player of the championship band who has remained here in the years since too.
But that championship core is still pretty much here- Sid, Tanger, Geno, Dumoulin, the now grown-up "kids" in Guentzel and Rust. They remain with head coach Mike Sullivan still leading the charge. They now have new, refreshed players by their side, a young hot shot of a netminder waiting for his chance at glory, and their first Stanley Cup Playoffs series win in four long seasons finally within their reach. The greatest team of its era is now on the precipice of a chance to return to future greatness.
And that's a very dangerous thing for the New York Rangers.
Doubly so considering they just dropped a second straight game where they let in seven goals and had to yank their Vezina Trophy-nominated goaltender Igor Shesterkin out of net.
The Rangers are trending so poorly in almost every category that MoneyPuck.com has the Penguins' odds of advancing to the second round of the playoffs as the highest of any team except for the already advanced Colorado Avalanche. Likewise, New York's odds of advancing past a Round One series are the lowest of any team besides the already eliminated Nashville Predators who lost to Colorado.
So how did we get here? Well the stats tell the tale and that tale is pure Pens dominance:
The Rangers have given up the third most goals against out of any of the 16 teams in the playoffs. Only the aforementioned hapless Predators and LA Kings trail them in that stat.
After four games played there are only two plus players on the Rangers: Jacob Trouba at +2 and K'Andre Miller at +1. The Penguins have 12 players that are a plus, seven who are +2 or more, and four players who are +3 or over: Kasperi Kapanen, John Marino, Chad Ruhwedel, and Mark Friedman.
The Pens are lapping New York at this point: Points leader Sidney Crosby nabbed three points in Game Four alone giving him nine points total for the series. That's almost double New York’s point leader Artemi Panarin’s five points. Likewise, Pens goals leader Jake Guentzel is outscoring the Rangers' goal leader Andrew Copp by nearly double too at five goals to three.
Finally, one of the most unique storylines of this series is unfolding in net. What if I told you before Game Two that by Game Five the following would occur: "Goalie A" would have a record of 3-1-0, 3.40 GAA, .906 SV% and "Goalie B" of 1-2-0, 4.26 GAA, .905 SV%, two consecutive pulls, two consecutive games w/ seven goals against? Then what if I told you "A" was Pens third-string goalie Louis Domingue and "B" was Vezina finalist Igor Shesterkin? You would have just laughed! Well, that's exactly where we're at in this series. It's been quite the reversal of roles.
For more stats check out below!
Pens Playoff Game #3-
Matchup: Pittsburgh Penguins (3) @ New York Rangers (1)
Date: Wednesday, May 11, 2022
Time: 7 PM (ET)
Place: New York, NY
Venue: Madison Square Garden
TV Broadcasts: National- ESPN | Local- ATTSN (PIT), MSG (NYR) | Canada- CBC, SN, TVAS
Radio Broadcasts: Local- 105.9 The X & The Penguins Radio Network | National- SiriusXM
Streaming Broadcasts: Broadcast TV over select streaming services, next day on ESPN+
App Updates: Penguins App
Series: 3-1 PIT
Team Streaks: PIT- 2 Wins, NYR- 2 Losses
Power Play % (Rank): PIT- 33.3% (3rd), NYR- 22.2% (7th)
Penalty Kill % (Rank): PIT- 77.8% (10th), NYR- 66.7% (14th)
Faceoff % (Rank): PIT- 55.7% (2nd), NYR- 44.3% (15th)
Goals For/Game (Rank): PIT- 5 (2nd), NYR- 3.50 (6th)
(Stat leaders by team comparisons-)
Goals: Jake Guentzel, 5.
Assists: Sidney Crosby, 7.
Points: Sidney Crosby, 9.
Shots: Jake Guentzel, 24.
Plus/Minus: John Marino/Kasperi Kapanen, +4.
TOI/G: Kris Letang, 31:17.
FO%: Teddy Blueger, 71.4%.
Hits: Kasperi Kapanen/Mike Matheson/Bryan Rust/Jason Zucker, 12.
Blocks: Kris Letang, 13.
Takeaways: Sidney Crosby, 8.
Goals: Andrew Copp, 3.
Assists: Mika Zibanejad, 4.
Points: Artemi Panarin, 5.
Shots: Ryan Strome, 20.
Plus/Minus: Jacob Trouba, +2.
TOI/G: Adam Fox, 29:10.
FO%: Kevin Rooney, 50%.
Hits: Ryan Reaves, 20.
Blocks: Adam Fox, 7.
Takeaways: Adam Fox/K’Andre Miller, 7.
(Projected starting goalie comparisons-)
#70- Louis Domingue, Penguins-
Series Record: 3-1-0, 3.40 GAA, .906 SV%
Career Playoff Record: 3-1-0, 3.11 GAA, .911 SV%
Career Record vs. Rangers: 3-1-0, 2.73 GAA, .906SV%
Last 5 Games Record: 3-2-0
#31- Igor Shesterkin, Rangers-
Series Record: 1-2-0, 4.26 GAA, .905 SV%
Career Playoff Record: 1-3-0, 4.02 GAA, .905 SV%
Career Record vs. Penguins: 5-3-1, 2.11 GAA, .924 SV%
Last 5 Games Record: 1-4-0
Pens Bullet Points:
(What's needed to win-)
-B.E. Aggressive!: The Penguins have to play like they're on the brink of elimination themselves to close out New York back at home. A sense of urgency is key. They need to continue to be aggressive and proactive which has been the secret to their success so far.
-Smash The Slot: Shesterkin has been getting killed by the Penguins in the slot. They must continue to prioritize lighting that area up like an Mt. Lebanon mansion's decorations at Christmastime.
-Clear The Air: There have been a few occasions in this series where the Pens have gotten in front of Louis Domingue which resulted in Rangers goals. Those goals either came via deflections off of skaters in front or from the Penguins screening their own goalie's vision. For the team to be able to close this out they need to help Louis as much as possible and they can do that by keeping his sightlines clear.
(Extra misc. info-)
-Milestone Achieved: Head Coach Mike Sullivan took #1 place in all-time playoff wins for a Pens head coach with the team's victory on Monday. Congrats to coach!
-The Rangers announced immediately after Monday's loss that pulled starter Igor Shsterkin will indeed start Game Five tonight. It may prove to be their series-losing decision as Shesterkin has been pulled twice in the last two games, has 11 goals against in those games, and hasn't looked at all himself or competent since the Game One triple overtime thriller.
-Meanwhile, New York's #2 goalie Alexander Georgiev has played just as many periods as Shesterkin over the last two games at three each. Georgiev has only one goal against to Igor's 11.
-Pens personnel notes: Jason Zucker is playing tonight after missing the last two optional Pens practices. Brian Dumoulin is not though as he has yet to resume skating but is progressing off-ice. Rickard Rakell took practice this morning but is still not cleared to return to play and the Pens don't seem inclined to rush considering he's dealing with a concussion. Tristan Jarry also took his first skate with the team this morning but still has a considerable way to go to return to full-speed practice. Jarry has been doing individual drills and it appears that he's not yet able to fully make transitions from down on ice to standing while bearing his full weight after sustaining what is assumed to be a broken foot. That signals there's still a way to go in his rehab.