Who is your favorite third goalkeeper to lead his team to the Stanley Cup?
Hell, who is the third best goalkeeper to win an entire NHL series? Is there one?
At this time of year, goalkeeper stories like unlikely hero Jeff Zatkoff “Mr. A 1” game in 2016 or Luis Domingo’s transition from eating spicy ham to saving 17 extra time in 2022 is usually best when they are not overly welcoming and can be wrapped up in time.
Unfortunately for Domingue and the Penguins, the health and time needed to recover Tristan Jarry didn’t allow for a quick conclusion to the feel-good story. Domingue allowed plenty more though – up to 19 goals in his five starts, with 888% savings in games 2-6. Incredibly, that’s still better than presumed Vezina Award winner and Hart Cup finalist MVP Igor Shesterkin with a .882% saving in the same period.
Try like Domingue and the Pens, though, and one can’t go too far in thinking about the series without going back to the sad fact that the team that was forced to rely on their third goalkeeper has died in the water. Just waiting to be revealed. The Rangers finally did it in Game Six, with star players Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanegad finally stepping up and taking advantage.
Kreider had only two goals in the first five games of the series, having scored a career high of 52 in the regular season. He got up and scored two goals in Game 6, including a late game-winning goal from an NHL-controlled long shot. Perhaps in Game 7, Kreider will realize the payoff from getting pucks on the net from anywhere in the area.
Zipanegad was even cooler in his entry last night – somehow he didn’t score a goal in all series (in a series full of goals) until Game Six. He added key assists as well, considering all of Rangers’ non-empty goals.
Of course, it made it easier for Zibanejad to shine and have the space to work without Sidney Crosby and Brian Dumoulin on the ice to check out the first-line position in New York.
At some point, with losses worsening like Pittsburgh’s incurred, the team can only do so much with what’s left.
However, the pens were the strongest of the two teams for the majority of the series. Even in the matches in which they lost, they managed to get potential customers. The Rangers’ greatest strength in Shesterkin didn’t break the chain with his game, which is a surprising development. Pittsburgh dominated NYR’s defense and broke right through: Pens’ 201 5v5 scoring chances and 103 high-risk scoring chances lead the NHL playoffs by a country mile by a mile in each category. This chain is there to take it.
This is where my neighbor could enter the picture as a hero, if only health would allow. Just over four weeks after a broken foot was reported, will Gary be able to play Game 7? It’s the bigger question that could hold the key to the series – and season – of the Penguins.
It would be hard to ask a goalkeeper who hasn’t played in a month to jump right into a pivotal 7 game (on the road no less) and perform at a high level, but that’s what the pens are asking for now. Just hoping for the best is never a perfect strategy, but it beats playing a third goalkeeper, which will likely yield predictable results after a while.
Entering the series, not many people liked the chances of the pens, even if they had Gary (..and Crosby…and Dumoulin..and Ricard Raquel). However, they fought back and brought the match to Game 7. Anything could happen when there was only one match left to determine the winner, but for Pittsburgh it would be much better if they could compete against a goalkeeper that would give them a better chance of winning.