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The Penguins’ left-handed depth goaltenders are an NHL rarity

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What do Tom Barrasso, Louis Domingue and Alex D’Orio have in common?

NHL: MAY 08 Sabres at Penguins
Alex D’Orio warms up before the game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres on May 8, 2021.
Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Penguins’ addition of Louis Domingue to their goaltending depth chart on Sept. 2 introduced a rare element to the roster: both Domingue and Alex D’Orio, the prospect who played 11 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2020-21 and sat on the bench to back up Maxime Lagace in the Penguins’ season finale, play with their glove on their right hand.

Left-handed goaltenders are a unique element to see on modern Penguins teams— in fact, they always have been. Of the 66 netminders who have suited up for the Penguins since 1967, only nine have been left handed. Of that minority, only five southpaws played more than 100 games.

Left-handed Penguins goaltenders (100+ GP)

Goaltender Years played in Pittsburgh Total games played
Goaltender Years played in Pittsburgh Total games played
Les Binkley 1968-1972 196
Greg Millen 1979-1981 135
Gilles Meloche 1986-1988 104
Tom Barrasso 1989-2000 460
Jean-Sebastien Aubin 1999-2004 168

Now, here come Domingue and D’Orio— both of whom have entered the organization as backup options, with Domingue likely sitting as third string and D’Orio eyeing a role as AHL starter. Still, the Penguins just last season were faced with the absence of both of their starting goaltenders, there’s so there’s always a chance that we could see a third-stringer make their Penguins debut in 2021-22.

If the two of them were to ever play as Pittsburgh together, they would be the first tandem of left-handed netminders to take the Penguins’ crease since Tom Barrasso and Jean-Sebastien Aubin in 2000.

Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey Devils
Tom Barrasso, 1988.
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The Penguins organization got their first lengthy look at D’Orio in action in 2020-21, when he played 11 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (6-3-1 record, 2.18 GAA, .915 save percentage).

D’Orio is still growing into his rebound control. He has a tendency to overcommit on mid-air stops, making it difficult for himself to follow through on rebounds, although he’s adept at stopping shots along the ice with quickly-stretched pad.

Those mid-air rebounds are less of an issue on his right side. Last season’s AHL opponents often attempted to feed a puck past D’Orios blocker, only to find the lefty’s glove there instead.

Adding a variety in glove-hand location to the Penguins’ net could benefit the goaltending depth, but if these two lefties do end up taking the ice in Pittsburgh, they will be among an NHL minority.

NHL: JUN 28 Pittsburgh Penguins Development Camp
Alex D’Orio during 2019 Penguins Development Camp.
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who led the League in wins for the past four seasons, is actually left-handed— he only plays with a right-handed glove because while he was first starting out as a netminder, left-handed mitts were difficult to find.

Even though that equipment is more common, left-handed NHL goaltenders still aren’t. According to NHL.com, since 2011, only two NHL teams have iced left-handed netminding tandems: the Ducks (Jonas Hiller and Jeff Deslauriers, 2011-12) and the Avalanche (Pavel Francouz and Michael Hutchinson, 2019-20).

If a situation were to arise in 2021-22 where the Penguins found themselves need of two depth goalies, like it did on May 8 when D’Orio backed up Maxime Lagace in the Penguins’ season finale, Domingue and D’Orio could make southpaw history.