Playoff Jake, Home Crowd Advantage, Other Thoughts from Pens’ Game 4 Win

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Penguins Twitter account

Remember to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for continued Pittsburgh Sports coverage: 

On the same night that Jose Quintana pitched six scoreless for the Buccos right across the river and spear-headed a win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, Rangers' goaltender, Igor Shesterkin, melted like a popsicle on a warm summer evening.

The Pittsburgh Penguins now own a 3-1 series lead and have pushed the New York Rangers to the brink of elimination as the series shifts back to Madison Square Garden. If you thought this was going to be the case before the series started, DM me on Twitter and I’ll send you $1,000 for an unbelievable prognostication.

Hearing the Penguins goal horn blare fourteen times across two home games was absolute music to every Penguins’ fans ears. Scoring ten of those on the goaltender who mocked the Penguins off the ice after a regular season shutout is infinitely much more fun.

But if you cared enough to click on this story, you didn’t come here to read a bunch of nothing. You came here to read some takes from a very average Penguins blogger.

So on with those takes I go!

Playoff Jake is in Full Swing

This guy just isn’t going to stop scoring, is he? For the fourth straight game, Jake Guentzel has put a puck in behind a Rangers’ goaltender. He’s making up for his last few postseasons on the top line with Sidney Crosby being absolute duds.

The chemistry these guys have shown is incredible. And it’s honestly not even a stretch to say that Guentzel is becoming one of the greatest wingers in Penguins history. He scores in the regular season. He scores in the postseason.

Sure you could argue Sid makes him better, but that’s anyone he plays with. Sid made Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz millions of dollars, but Guentzel is a better player than both of those guys.

Guentzel now has 30 goals and 52 points in 54 career playoff games. He’s the ultimate performer when the stakes get higher. When you consider he only had six points in his previous 14 playoff games coming into this postseason, the near point per game pace is even more impressive.

If the trend is to continue, throwing a little money on Jake Guentzel to score next game at your preferred Sportsbook may not be an awful idea.

I’m Calling Out the MSG Crowd

I had the chance to catch Game 1 at Madison Square Garden. The crowd was electric. Anytime a crowd doesn’t get up for a playoff game, you should immediately move the team out of that city. It would be inexcusable.

They were a good crowd that grew slightly more irritated as the game wore on deep into the night. It was a long, stress-induced night.

I also had the pleasure of going to Game 3 at PPG Paints Arena. I can say that it was one of the best crowds I’ve ever been a part of. They were jacked up. Everyone let Shesterkin hear it every time that vulcanized rubber got behind him. I didn’t get a chance to go to , but I think that crowd might’ve just been better.

Going into a series against the Vezina winner can be a sure death sentence. He’s the best goalie in the league this year and you’ve got to find a way to beat him four times? Good luck.

But the Penguins have a penchant for burying elite goaltenders and the crowd had a lot to do with that tonight. They were on Igor again and even started a “We Want Igor!” chant after Alexander Georgiev was announced into the game prior to period number three.

The MSG crowd is sure to be tough in attempting to will their team to victory in Game 5. Good luck matching the Penguins’ crowd these last two games.

Rangers Finding it Harder to Make Their Aggressive Play Count

We saw in Games 1 and 2 that the Rangers had every intention of bullying the Penguins with their size advantage knowing full well the Penguins weren’t going to push back with much substance.

They went after John Marino. Whether it was Ryan Reaves or Ke’Andre Miller or Jacob Trouba, the Rangers were going to make Marino and others feel it. However, that advantage seemed to fade a bit in the next two games.  New York did have 49 hits in Game 4, but they were actually outhit by the Penguins who had 54.

The Rangers ramped up the physical play in the 3rd period last night once they were out of the game. They weren’t dirty but there was a noticeable uptick in trying to lay it on the Penguins more often.

To have a shot at coming back in this series, they’re going to have to try and get after some of these Penguins again. It’ll be interesting to see if the home crowd behind them gets the Rangers physicality back to its usual heights.

Domingue Has His Best Start So Far

Louis Domingue now has three playoff victories in 2022. Outside of Pittsburgh, I’m not sure anyone even knew that Domingue’s journeyman career had led him to Pittsburgh. A little bit of spicy pork and broccoli later, and now everyone is well aware.

Domingue’s best overall performance will be Game 1. There’s no doubt about that. But his best start was here in Game 4.

Domingue made 20 saves on 22 shots and recovered well despite giving up a goal just 2:06 into the 1st period. A third string goalie could let that snowball into a laughable performance, but Domingue buttoned up and allowed only one goal the rest of the way.  That goal being non-consequential that made the score 4-2 midway through the 2nd period.

Through four games, and three starts, Domingue is 3-1-0 with a 3.40 goals against average and a .906 save percentage. Those stats aren’t eye popping but he’s giving his team a chance to win. If the Penguins have to score seven goals a night to do it, so be it.

Domingue certainly has been bad enough to lose the Penguins the series. In an ideal world, the Penguins finish the series off on Wednesday, have a few days off, and Domingue gives way to a healthy Tristan Jarry after helping to authorize an upset of the New York Rangers.

And if things go wayward with Jarry’s performance, the Penguins can turn to a goaltender who was able to help push them through the first round.

Hats off to Marino, Kapanen on Turning Things Around

There were times this season where both John Marino and Kasperi Kapanen had people calling for them to be traded or scratched in favor of literally anyone else. I am guilty as charged in that department.

But these two have become two of the better players on the entire team during this postseason.

A quick look at Marino’s advanced stats show he’s dominating his matchups and even pitching in on the offensive side to help drive play.

As far as Kapanen goes, throw every stat, advanced or not, out the window. A simple eye test shows that Kapanen is a completely different player than the one that donned a sweater in the regular season.

His pass to Evgeni Malkin on the Pens’ seventh goal of the evening was just ridiculous. He’s flying with a purpose that he didn’t have just two weeks ago. Instead of pulling up as soon as he crosses the blue line, he’s skating full speed ahead and using that blazing speed to his advantage.

Kappy has yet to score through four games but he’s going to get one. He’s been awesome in every game so far and the hockey gods are going to reward him. His hunger seems to be infectious throughout the lineup as many slumping players are seeing a resurgence that no one could’ve saw coming heading into the playoffs.

But Marino and Kapanen deserve the most credit. Those guys were basically D.O.A. when the Penguins entered the playoffs.

Other Quick Hits

  • As bad as Jeff Carter had been in the opening games of this series, he’s gotten himself on the board in the last two games. He was due…
  • Rickard Rakell was a non-contact participant with the team on Monday morning and that’s a massive step towards him making an impact before the end of the series…
  • Tristan Jarry saw pucks for the first time since his injury Monday. He likely wouldn’t play until game six at the earliest but that development is also very encouraging…
  • Say what you will about Brian Dumoulin’s play this season but the Penguins defense is much more balanced when he plays and the Mike Matheson-Kris Letang pairing has to be broken up…
  • I’d be remised if I didn’t mention Mark Friedman and his first career playoff goal. The dude is a menace on the ice and the celebration banging against the glass right in front of the lone Rangers fans in the section was an A+ troll job…
  • And finally, the Rangers are going to hit with their best punch in the opening period of game five. They’ll have the home crowd behind them. The Penguins, and Domingue especially, have to be ready for an early onslaught if they want a chance to win that game.