2017 Playoff Preview Round 2: Jake Allen vs Pekka Rinne
Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne gave two of the most exciting performances in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They enter the second round sitting second and first, respectively, atop the NHL leaderboard in both save percentage and GAA. Both have made technical adjustments through the course of the season that they will need to continue to take another series.
Allen’s .956 save percentage and 1.47 GAA in the Western Conference Quarterfinal against the Minnesota Wild may be buoyed by a 51-save performance in Game 1, but it wasn’t all flash. When he gets the time and the confidence to read and react, the 26-year old is hard to beat. Since the St. Louis Blues replaced Head Coach Ken Hitchcock with Mike Yeo and goaltending coach Jim Corsi with Martin Brodeur in February, Allen has make remarkable strides in developing into a true NHL starter.
Compared to other playoff starters, Allen tended to give up relatively more goals in bad angle situations. Taking a look at the tracking done using Double Blue Sports Analytics Save Review System, you can see that eighteen percent of the goals he allowed were from either below the goal line or outside the faceoff dots, compared with 11% for all playoff starters. This was partly due to getting stranded when his reads went bad early in the season.
As long as he can avoid a tendency to flatten out to the goal line and come off square when play moves up the wings, Allen should be able to keep the Blues in nearly any game.
At the other end of the ice, Pekka Rinne enters the final Central Division showdown after allowing only 3 goals in four games against the Western Conference first seed Chicago Blackhawks. In the process he achieved something no goalie has in 24 years: scoring two assists during a playoff shutout. While he unquestionably had luck on his side at times, Rinne did show that his efforts to gain control and efficiency over the season can pay dividends, if he can maintain that.
Rinne’s long limbs and aggressive style have the tendency to open bigger holes than, for instance, his crease partner Juuse Saros. This shows not only in tight but also in lateral plays, where Rinne is stretched to cover space. Still, as much commentary as this generates, it isn’t what cost Rinne the most this season. Nearly half of all the goals he allowed (48%) involved either a screen or a deflection or both. It’s a cliche but taking away Rinne’s eyes became one of the most effective ways of scoring on him.
As you might expect, it’s somewhat easier to score on Rinne blocker side than glove side. Close to half of the goals allowed (46%) came on the right side and another 13% were five hole. Regardless of whether he’s playing tighter or not, his willingness to take on ice opens up space in scramble situations that a more conservative netminder will cover.
Rinne’s key to success in this series will be to maintain the efficiency and control that came and went for him throughout the regular season.