Are Blackhawks Exploiting Pekka Rinne’s Blocker?
It’s no secret Nashville Predators star Pekka Rinne has one of, if not the, best gloves in the NHL.
So it would make sense for the Chicago Blackhawks to try and stay away from the left side of the big, skilled Finn in their first round series. But after scoring their first six goals on Rinne’s glove side in the first two games, Chicago has scored five of its next seven over the past two on the blocker side, including some looks off the rush that beat Rinne clean on his right side, which prompted this observation from shot quality guru Chris Boyle:
Is new book on Rinne blocker side? Has been closing up and dropping his hands before moving towards the puck with blocker.
— Chris Boyle (@ChrisBoyle33) April 22, 2015
As Boyle noted, Rinne appeared to be dropping his blocker hand into more of a blocking save off the release before reacting out to pucks on the perimeter. It’s something we’ve often described as “reacting from the knees” at InGoal, a phrase borrowed from Columbus Blue Jackets goalie coach Ian Clark and one often used to describe a goalie who defaults down and tight before reacting to a shot rather than moving in straight lines to the puck.
Ironically it’s also a big part of since replaced Chicago starter Corey Crawford’s oft-belaboured glove deficiency.
There are elements of tracking to this habit as well. The tendency to pull up and off pucks with the head as they drop down often leaves the goalie playing catch up as they turn their body away from the path of a high shot.
InGoal contributor Dan Stewart, who is currently the goalie coach for the Cobourg Cougars of the OJHL and owner of CT Crease Canada Goalie School, took the analysis a step further and found a direct link between the blocker side goals and the two others in the past two games, each of which beat Rinne between the legs. Dan, who works with goalies in the Greater Toronto Area as well as New England, broke it down with a video showing the last seven Chicago goals may be a result of Rinne’s blocker habits:
Rinne has always been an active, reactive goaltender, to the point more than one goalie coach has wondered if there are times he would be better suited playing a more static positional game and just closing the holes in that huge 6-foot-5 frame. But he’s been so good for so long playing this way, it’s hard to argue the results.
As for whether the Blackhawks are clearly targeting Rinne’s blocker side at this point would require a breakdown of every shot so far in the series and there wasn’t time for that for this post, but thanks to Double Blue Sports Analytics we can at least easily track the goal locations on Rinne to date in this series:
As Boyle noted, however, five of the last seven have been on his blocker side. Add in the role Rinne’s blocker appears to play in the two that went between his legs and that’s seven-straight goals based on his blocker.