The Wraparound: Goaltending, special teams deciding Penguins-Rangers

penguins-rangers
Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.

• Check in with all of Saturday’s NHL Stanley Cup playoff action with the NHL Rink Wrap right here

Nick Paul‘s two goals helped power the Lightning to a Game 7 win over the Maple Leafs.

Max Domi was the hero as the Hurricanes topped the Bruins and will face either the Penguins or Rangers in the Second Round.

It is not difficult to see which team has been better at even-strength through the first six games of the Penguins-Rangers series. It is Pittsburgh, and by a pretty significant margin. You can see it on the ice, and the numbers back it up.

Pittsburgh has a 53% share of the shot attempts. It has a 62 percent share of the expected goals (the top mark in the league), a 58 percent share of the scoring chances, and a 66 percent share of high-danger scoring chances. Oh, and they have also outscored the Rangers 20-14 during 5-on-5 play. Sidney Crosby was getting most of the attention prior to his injury in Game 5 (and for good reason) but the rest of the forward lines and defense have been carrying their share of the weight as well.

Based on 5-on-5 play, this series should probably already be over.

But the game is a lot more than just 5-on-5 play. Goaltending and special teams play a pretty big role as well, and that is where the Rangers have made up their ground to erase a 3-1 series deficit and send it to a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday night (7 p.m. ET; TBS, SNE, SNO, SNP, SN360).

Let’s start with the goaltending.

This was always going to be the Rangers’ big advantage. Igor Shesterkin is the best goalie in the league this season, the likely Vezina Trophy winner, and a Hart Trophy finalist. He is the biggest reason the Rangers had the success they had this season.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, opened the series without starting goalie Tristan Jarry and then lost backup Casey DeSmith for the remainder of the playoffs in the second overtime of Game 1, leaving its net in the hands of Louis Domingue. Domingue stopped all 17 shots in his first appearance to help backstop the Penguins to a 4-3 triple overtime win and has had to start ever since. It has not gone great.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

While Shesterkin has not played to his normal level, he has still outplayed Domingue by a fairly substantial margin, especially when you consider the workload each team has asked of their goalie. Domingue has managed only an .888 save percentage in his five starts, and allowed a couple of brutal goals in the Rangers’ 5-3 Game 6 win, including the game-winner with just over a minute to play in regulation.

The Penguins need one of two things in Game 7: Either a healthy Jarry that can play a strong game, or more from Domingue. That may seem unfair to be asking for more from your third-string goalie, but the Penguins are not really asking for that much. They have mostly insulated him in this series defensively, and he has at least some track record of success in the NHL. He has 150 games of NHL experience under his belt, and at times has played very well. He has two seasons with at least 35 appearances and a save percentage of .910 or better. They are not asking for games to be stolen. They are just asking for some saves. Shesterkin is not going to keep giving up three or four goals every game, and the Penguins at some point are going to need to keep the Rangers to under four goals if they are going to win.

Then there are the special teams.

The Rangers’ power play has been magnificent in this series, scoring on five its 15 opportunities. It won Game 5 with a third period goal, and helped swing Game 6 when Mike Zibanejad scored just five seconds into a power play after an Evan Rodrigues retaliation penalty. It is not just goaltending that is hurting the Penguins here, either. New York is getting a ton of good looks and scoring chances with the man-advantage. Pittsburgh’s penalty kill was one of the best in the league during the regular season, but it has not had an answer for the Rangers power play in the first six games.

On the other side, Pittsburgh’s power play has come up small in a couple of very big situations the past two games. They opened Game 5 with a full two-minute, 5-on-3 advantage, and not only did not score a goal, they managed just a single goal. In Game 6, with the game tied 2-2 in the second period, they got another extended 5-on-3 advantage (for over a minute) and failed to register a single shot on goal. Even worse, that came after a timeout to try and set things up. Even worse than that, they allowed the Rangers to get two shorthanded scoring chances. You have to be better there.

That is the story of the series as it heads to Game 7 on Sunday night. The Penguins have owned during 5-on-5 play. The Rangers have been better in goal and on special teams. Those storylines continue for one more game, not difficult to see where the result goes.

NHL PLAYOFF GAMES TODAY

Game 7: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET; TBS, SNE, SNO, SNP, SN360 (Series tied 3-3): There is always the chance the Penguins could get Sidney Crosby and/or Rickard Rakell back for this game, but even if they do it might not matter if they do not get significantly better goaltending than they have so far. You also have to expect that Shesterkin is going to have a really strong game at some point. Everything is lining up perfectly for the Rangers here.

Game 7: Dallas Stars vs. Calgary Flames, 9:30 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, TVAS (Series tied 3-3): Then we have the fifth Game 7 of the weekend in Calgary. This has been one of the more interesting series to this point because it started off as a complete drag. It was all defense, no offense, and one team scoring the first goal and then slowing the game down to a crawl. But over time the two teams have developed quite a hatred for each other, the pace has rapidly picked up, leads have changed hands, and there has been some sensational goaltending from Jacob Markstrom (Calgary) and Jake Oettinger (Dallas). When the Stars do make the playoffs they always seem to find a way to disrupt things and go much further than anybody ever expected them to go. They have a pretty good chance of doing that again this season in this series.

PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
• Penguins vs. Rangers
Flames vs. Stars

First Round, Stanley Cup predictions
Why your team will (and will not) win the Stanley Cup

Scroll Down For:

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    austonmatthews
    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.