Preds goalie is in the zone

Rinne has Nashville in first Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal with smoth­er­ing run

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY TERESA M. WALKER

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.

AP PHOTO

Nashville Preda­tors goalie Pekka Rinne stops a shot against the Ana­heim Ducks dur­ing Game 6 of the Western Con­fer­ence fi­nal Mon­day in Nashville, Tenn.

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