Preds goalie is in the zone
Rinne has Nashville in first Stanley Cup Final with smothering run
Knocking the smile off Pekka Rinne’s face right now is nearly impossible.
The longest-tenured player with the Nashville Predators, the 34-year-old goaltender finally will play in his first Stanley Cup Final in his ninth full NHL season.
“As a player, I feel like I’ve had a fairly long career and never had this opportunity,” Rinne said. “So very fortunate and really appreciate this opportunity. I guess as a player you just enjoy being in this position. Enjoy the chance that you get, and you put your body on the line every night and give everything you have.”
Teammates call the 6-foot-5 Finn the backbone of the Predators, and he’s probably the best goalie in the world at the moment. He handles the puck like an extra defenceman. He foils the dump-and-chase efforts of opponents. And, oh, is he good in front of the net, aggressive with forwards in the crease, seeing seemingly everything and occasionally making saves with a Dominik Hasek-like contortion.
Not only is Rinne a playoff-best 12-4, his .945 save percentage ranks third all-time for a single post-season behind a pair of Conn Smythe Trophy winners in Jean-Sebastien Giguere for Anaheim in 2003 and Jonathan Quick for Los Angeles in 2012, according to HockeyReference.com. Rinne’s 1.70 goals-against average is 10th all-time for one post-season.
“What he does every night, you can’t put into words,” Nashville defenceman P.K. Subban said.
The 19-year-old franchise has reached its first Stanley Cup Final behind Rinne’s standout performances.
After Nashville ousted Anaheim in six games Monday night , Rinne now is even stingier on home ice with a 7-1 record, 1.54 GAA and .947 save percentage. He made 38 saves on a night where Nashville took only 18 shots.
“Anytime you need to close a series out, you know that as a goalie you got to be good and as a team you got to be good,” Rinne said.
The native of Kampele, Finland, has been better than good. He also has the skill to skate out to play the puck. With coach Peter Laviolette’s team clogging the neutral zone to slow opponents, Rinne is an extra (tall) layer of frustration waiting at the end of the ice for opponents who dump the puck in — even those high on the glass.
Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne stops a shot against the Anaheim Ducks during Game 6 of the Western Conference final Monday in Nashville, Tenn.