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Hey, Louis Domingue! No Pressure, Buddy!

If the Penguins are going to overcome the New York Rangers, they'll need their third stringer with no previous playoff starts to steal some games. He's the latest in a string of backups that are thrust into the limelight during the playoffs.
Louis Domingue

If there's anything the Stanley Cup playoffs do well, it's making compelling storylines.

And goalies live for those.

Before Game 1, the story for Pittsburgh was whether Casey DeSmith could outduel the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy, Igor Shesterkin. But in the sixth period of play, the attention turned to Louis Domingue. 

The job was simple: don't allow a single goal. None. Zero. One bad bounce and it's over. That never happened, because he turned away all 17 shots in 16:40 of play for a 4-3 victory in a game that took three overtimes to complete.

"You dream about that your whole life, you're playing in overtime in the playoffs, are you kidding me?" Domingue told the media after Game 1. "You think you'd be nervous in a situation like that, but it was just fun for me."

Mr. Spicy Pork and Broccoli was the hero in Game 1. But now he'll need to do it three more times against a determined New York Rangers team with one of the best goalies in hockey.

Call it an opportunity of a lifetime for a 30-year-old that, in a perfect world, wouldn't see a minute of action in the post-season. But that's something we see time and time again in the playoffs -- minor league goaltenders coming in and becoming the story. Remember Jussi Markkanen's run with the Edmonton Oilers in 2006? Michael Hutchinson's improbable starts with Colorado in 2020?

Hey, we could see that again. And that's pretty cool.

The Penguins lost Tristan Jarry to an injury late in the regular season and his timeline is still unclear, although he could still return in this series. DeSmith is listed as day-to-day after leaving Game 1 midway through the second overtime. In the playoffs, day-to-day could mean just about anything. So that's where Domingue enters the picture.

Once a key part of Arizona's future, Domingue has bounced around the NHL for much of his eight-year NHL career. In 142 career NHL regular season starts, Domingue has played for six NHL teams in his career, including two starts with the Penguins this season. Domingue was forced into significant action in 2015-16 and 2016-17 with the Coyotes, with 39 and 31 games played, respectively. But otherwise, his career has been full of call-up appearances and trips to the minors. 

Domingue's only other playoff action was a seven-save period with Tampa Bay against Washington on May 11, 2018 after replacing Andrei Vasilevskiy. In all, Domingue has played essentially two periods of playoff action without allowing a goal.

So, Domingue coming in and basically acting as a savior makes for an incredible story. His teammates love him. He's worked hard to 

When it comes to playoff experience, you don't know what you don't know. And in this case, the Rangers don't really know Domingue, and he doesn't know much about saving teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs. All Domingue knows is that he needs to win, and every game he starts is a potential tryout for the pending UFA.

As uncertainty surrounds Pittsburgh's crease, the team's fate is in the hands of a goaltender with a ton to prove. He's got experience, including a 21-5 run with Tampa Bay in 2018-19. Despite bouncing around a lot, teams still value his experience and his ability to steal a game or two along the way. That's about to be tested in Game 2, and, perhaps, beyond.

Luckily, Domingue will be much better suited for the challenge. It's hard to stay focused when you're forced to sit in the corner halfway down the ice from your team in a triple-overtime affair and forced to save a game against a higher-seeded New York team. 

If there's ever a time to prove yourself, it's during the playoffs. That's what Domingue and the Penguins are confronted with in the short-term, hopefully. The first round never seems to disappoint, and no matter who you cheer for, the Pittsburgh-New York series just got 50x more interesting.

No pressure, Louis. 



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