(This is the 19th in a series this month looking at each player on the Lightning’s roster. Up next: Braydon Coburn)
TAMPA — Louis Domingue started out as an insurance policy.
He turned out to be much more than that for the Lightning this year.
The Lightning traded for Domingue as a third goalie in November 2017. Entering this season as Andrei Vasilevskiy’s backup, he spent a month as the starter after Andrei Vasilevskiy broke a foot and helped launch the team on a 16-game point streak. And he set a franchise record with 11 consecutive wins.
The 27-year-old outperformed the third-goalie role. And his performance this season was a long way from having to rent his own ice time when he was with the Coyotes.
Before Arizona traded him to the Lightning, Domingue was all but dismissed by the Coyotes. Worse than being released and receiving a chance to sign with another team, he was assigned to the AHL but never physically sent there. Instead, Domingue was sent home.
He rented his own ice time and skated with then-Arizona captain Shane Doan, unsure when his next chance to play would come. Finally, he was traded to the Lightning, assigned to AHL Syracuse and eventually given a chance as Tampa Bay’s backup.
This season turned into the Domingue redemption tour. He proved himself a more than capable backup. Four times he faced at least 40 shots, winning three.
He gave up a few leads but had some help doing so, and then clamped down late in games to give the Lightning a chance to win. The best example of that was a Nov. 17 win over the Flyers. Tampa Bay took a 3-0 lead but squandered it. Domingue made a few impressive saves to get the game to overtime, when Anthony Cirelli scored.
Coach Jon Cooper repeatedly said backup goalie is one of the hardest roles on a team. The Lightning schedules which goalie will start which game, so Domingue usually knows when he’ll play. But it’s hard for a backup to stay sharp without game action.
When Vasilevskiy gave an interview about learning when to rest, Domingue quipped he’d be happy to take on a few more games so the starter could have more time off.
Yet it was in the backup role, with four to eight games between appearances, that Domingue won half of his record-setting 11 straight starts. He beat the record of nine set by starters John Grahame in 2005-06 and tied by Vasilevskiy in 2017-18. With another year on his contract at $1.15 million, look for him to return and continue as the backup.
And Domingue had fun along the way. For a while, he was the only Lightning player to engage with the camera during the team’s fist-bump-line videos after wins. He started taking it to the next level, adding props including Fathead graphics, a mini dirt bike and even blowtorches. In the “series finale,” Domingue set up velvet ropes and welcomed the Lightning to the 60-Win Club.
Louis Domingue’s season
High: Domingue made 29 saves and allowed just one goal in a 7-1 Dec. 8 win against the Avalanche, which had the most potent line in the NHL at the time.
Low: He allowed seven goals on 30 shots as his teammates were practically nonexistent in front of him in a 7-1 loss in his return to Arizona on Oct. 27..
By the numbers
21 Wins in 26 starts, the best rate of any goalie in the NHL this year
40 Saves in a game twice
1,561 Minutes played, third highest of his career