Two Shutouts, Two Assists in Two Games For Pekka Rinne
Sometimes you just have a good game or two and Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has had a pretty good couple of games. In two games against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Quarterfinal, Rinne has stopped all 59 shots he’s faced in two games and also earned two assists in Saturday’s Game 2.
Shutouts aren’t exactly rare in the playoffs, and back-to-back shutouts happen about once a postseason in recent years.
Earning an assist in a playoff shutout is a whole other story. It has happened a handful of times since 1986. (In fact, Edmonton’s Cam Talbot also earned an assist in his shutout on Friday.)
However, this marks the first time since 1993 that a goalie has earned two assists in a postseason shutout, much less a double shutout.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 16, 2017
Rinne has given every credit to his defense for his success, telling media on Saturday “The guys have been playing really well in front of me, defending, boxing guys out, tying up the sticks and blocking a ton of shots. There wasn’t probably one shot where I didn’t see it.”
As for the assists? “That was lucky,” he said.
Rinne has, however, become more active in handling the puck in the past two years. When seeing fewer shots, it was a way to stay mentally sharp and focused, as Rinne told InGoal Magazine last February.
He is also trying to handle the puck as much as possible (something Martin Brodeur used to do to stay focused amid low shot totals with the New Jersey Devils) to help him stay engaged in the game.
“I am trying to get every single rim, even when it’s up on the glass. I feel like that helps me, too. I try to stay vocal, try to communicate all the time, try to stay engaged in the game all the time.”
At last, all that practice finally paid off with secondary assists for the big Finn on Nashville’s second and fourth goals of the night.
This season has been a bit up and down for Rinne and he struggled for portions of the year. He came into the postseason with numbers just around league average, a .918 in all situations and a .929 at 5-on-5. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, scored 2.93 goals per game in 2016-17. And while the trends are likely to revert back to something much closer to normal over the next few games, Rinne and the wild card Predators are in a much better position to upset the top-seeded Blackhawks than they could have been.
The series will move to Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Thursday.