How struggling in low shot games helped Pekka Rinne score a goal
Pekka Rinne scoring a goal on Thursday was a long time – and a lot of work – in the making.
In fact, the Nashville Predators long time No. 1 and 2018 Vezina Trophy winner had a long discussion about it with InGoal Magazine a little less than 13 months earlier, and left no doubts about his burning desire to add his name to the short list of goalies to hit an open net.
“I think about it all the time,” Rinne said, his eyes widening at the subject. “I think about it constantly, any time they pull the goalie, even if it’s a one-goal lead I think about it. Eventually it’s going to happen again. You need a bit of a quick opportunity, but it’s coming.”
It did on Thursday, when Rinne collected a hard dump-in behind his net, dropped a knee and, using a Turco-grip on his stick, fired a high shot over the Chicago Blackhawks and into an empty net at the other end, becoming the eighth goalie to shoot and score (12 goalies have been credited with 15 goals all time — 13 in the regular season and two in the playoffs — but the others were own goals credited to them as the last to touch the puck for their team).
GOALIE GOAL ALERT
PEKKA RINNE SCORES!!!! pic.twitter.com/PwoF19GPtu
— InGoal Magazine (@InGoalMedia) January 10, 2020
“I tried a bunch of times, but missed the net or it’s gotten picked up at the red line or blue line,” Rinne said last season. “Even in the NHL I have tried three times and never done it.”
That’s no longer the case, obviously, and NHL goaltenders expect to see more peers score more as teams pull their own goalie for an extra attacker earlier than in the past. But there are elements — and a history — to Rinne’s goal beyond those trends that makes it stand out.
It starts with Rinne’s aggressive pursuit of dump ins, a trend born out of a desire to maintain his focus, flow and assertive style during games when Nashville wasn’t giving up a lot of shots.
Rinne called it a “huge” adjustment at the time, especially for a goalie who feels his best when he’s being active, even while trying to quiet parts of his game throughout his career.
“You always want to be a difference maker, you want to do something to be able to help and a lot of times we’d have games with between 15 and 20 shots and after the game you feel like you didn’t do anything,” Rinne said. ““My game is more flow and aggressive and movement and feeling the game. It’s so hard [when you don’t get shots]. You start to feel like, even though you try to stay focussed, your mind sometimes starts wandering compared to a busy night.”
One of Rinne’s solutions was to try to handle the puck more to stay involved. He pointed to Martin Brodeur, who is credited with three goals in his Hall of Fame career, as someone who stayed engaged behind a low-event New Jersey Devils team by handling the puck more.
“I am trying to get every single rim, even when it’s up on the glass,” Rinne said. “I feel like that helps me. I try to stay vocal, try to communicate all the time, stay engaged all the time.”
Rinne’s ability to stop even the hardest dump in hasn’t gone unnoticed by his peers.
When InGoal asked NHL goalies what skill they’d take from other goalies, most pointed to Carey Price’s skating, but current Toronto Maple Leafs backup Michael Hutchinson pointed to Rinne.
“Pekka’s ability to stop rims behind the net is unbelievable,” Hutchinson said. “Anytime we play them, I watch him to try and figure that out. It doesn’t matter if you rim the puck up on the glass hard or soft, he’s getting out there and getting to it, even if he has to jump up into the glass. I’ve seen him butterfly slide into the boards, everything. It’s just one extra thing that if you can add to your game it will help out your team, help your defense.”
In this case, of course, his deft handling of a tricky, bouncing rim-in ended up helping his offence. Not many goaltenders would have been able to gather this puck in time to get off a shot.
For Rinne, the work he put in to stop more pucks behind the net also helped his puck handling, simply because he had the puck on his stick more, both in games and practice. And while most coaches probably prefer their goalie to leave the dump ins that get up on the glass because those are more likely to hit a stanchion and bounce out front of the vacated net, it’s worth recognizing the role it played in Rinne joining an exclusive club of goaltenders.