Ahh, the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A place where some players "bring it," while others fall well short of the so-called “experts”' expectations.
Heading into the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs several reports were calling for Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne to have a huge playoff; others were a lot more realistic about Rinne's talent and the talents of the team in front of him.
Rinne brought a career playoff record of 2-4 to go along with a marginal .911 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.68 into this years playoffs.
Needless to say, given Rinne's numbers it would be hard to suggest that he was going to catch fire against an offensively explosive team like the Anaheim Ducks, yet there were still some reports out there that suggested Rinne would do exactly that.
Through four playoff games this year, Rinne has watched his numbers become the ugly elephant in the Predators locker room with a .860 save percentage and a rather alarming 3.73 goals against average.
Heading into Thursday nights action, those numbers put Rinne 18th overall in save percentage and 17th overall in goals against average, hardly what anyone would call earth shattering numbers.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Rinne is a good goaltender. His career regular season record of 95-54-18 to go along with a .920 save percentage and 2.33 goals against average could easily lead one to believe Rinne was going to have a great postseason. Sadly Rinne’s regular season numbers have not translated into playoff success, which has some fans wondering, just what went wrong with Rinne?
Unfortunately, the answers do not jump out at you right away, but upon further review, there are some key areas that Rinne must improve.
Could it be that the Anaheim Ducks are peppering Rinne with too many shots?
Maybe. But until Thursday night's tilt the Nashville Predators had outshot the Ducks in every match.
Combined, Anaheim goaltenders have faced a total of 123 shots. Pekka Rinne has faced 100.
Rinne has allowed 14 goals on 100 shots; Anaheim Ducks goaltender Ray Emery (a goalie felt to be far inferior to Rinne) has allowed just 10 goals on 99 shots.
Could it be that Anaheim’s defense is that much better than the Predators D?
Hardly. The Nashville Predators owned the third best goals against per game ratio during the regular season at just 2.32 goals per game. Comparatively, the Anaheim Ducks owned the 20th-ranked defense at 2.84 goals against per game.
To be fair, Anaheim owned the 11th best offense during the regular season, netting 2.87 goals per game. The Predators offense ranked 21st overall, averaging 2.60 goals per game.
Some quick match reveals that while the Ducks score an average of 0.27 goals per game more than the Predators, the Preds were far and away the better defensive team, allowing 0.52 goals less than the Ducks per game.
Hmm…the Predators great defense against the Ducks' 11th-ranked offense…seems like a fair matchup to me. In fact, seems like a matchup Rinne should win, no?
With Anaheim missing 34-goal man Bobby Ryan for the past two games, surely the Ducks offense would sputter?
Nope. Despite not having Ryan in the lineup the Ducks have scored more goals (nine) in their past two games than they did in their first two tilts against the Preds (six) AND the Ducks have done it on the road.
Often caught out of position, struggling to find the puck and mentally flawed, Rinne looks to be coming up rather small this playoff, which has to have more than a few Predators fans up in arms.
If I didn’t know any better I’d say that Pekka Rinne, not his team, is struggling, wouldn’t you?
Sure, the Predators defense has to assume some responsibility for Rinne’s struggles, but when you consider the save percentage numbers over the past three games (.793, .813, .852) and the combined save percentage of .860, Rinne is at the forefront for blame.
And let’s not forget the fact that the Predators have outshot the Ducks on three of four occasions, which, in my humble opinion, helps support the fact that Rinne, not the team in front of him, looks to be the main issue the Predators are struggling to get by the Ducks.
This series is far from over, and Rinne looks to have a few more games to bring his numbers more in line with what we have seen him accomplish in the past, but in order for all those Rinne supporters to save face he had better be excellent, otherwise it appears as if Rinne and his Predators will be getting an early start on their golf swings…again!