May 31, 2017 by scia9
(Courtesy of Don McPeak / US PRESSWIRE)
Written by Andrew Sciascia
“It looked like he crapped his pants,” said Mike Felger, host of WBZ-FM’s sports-radio talk show “Felger and Massarotti”, of Pekka Rinne’s performance in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
5-3 was the final score as the Nashville Predators fell to the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in their Stanley Cup Final debut Monday night. Following the loss, analysts and talking heads took to the airwaves looking for someone to blame for a hot Predators’ controversial loss.
With opinions flying free, one thing was plain as day: how quickly fans and analysts are willing to turn on a player they’ve been singing the praises of in recent weeks. And Predators’ starting goaltender Pekka Rinne took a mauling.
Problem is, Rinne wasn’t to blame in the slightest.
You can point fingers all over the Preds’ locker room, right down to the coaching staff, but Rinne should have been free from scrutiny. He was a cut above in Game 1. As he has been since before the playoffs started.
In fact, by the numbers, Pekka Rinne has been one of the strongest goaltending names league-wide since he began his career with Nashville. An 8th round pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Rinne has played 11 seasons (500 plus games) and never finished a season with a Save Percentage of .900 or lower.
Rinne is a brick house. He’s frustrated some of the league’s best shooters for years. Yet, following the tough loss in Pittsburgh, his skill and mental fortitude has been called into question by just about everyone. As if the Preds’ have anyone to blame but themselves.
To put it nicely, the Predators handed Pittsburgh the first game of the series.
The Penguins played a sloppy game of hockey. For God’s sake, they had a 37-minute lull where they didn’t put pucks on net. The game was Nashville’s to win, but they couldn’t capitalize, they lacked composure (taking two belligerently stupid penalties early on) and when they let up on defense they left quality chances wide open in key moments.
To make matters worse, one of the most prevalent arguments against Rinne’s Game 1 performance has been that he allowed 5 goals in a tilt where the Pens had a mere 12 Shots On Goal, which somehow makes it all his fault. This is a ludicrous argument.
These days hockey fans, typically casual viewers, base a goaltender’s performance on the number of shots faced. This is problematic as the quality of shots is rarely addressed. A goaltender with a strong defensive core can often face upwards of 30 shots and not let up one goal, because every shot was from the perimeter with no screen in sight. Numerous low percentage shots just pad the stat sheets.
5 goals on 12 shots isn’t the story of Game 1.
The story of game one is that Nashville simply couldn’t capitalize on opportunity, and the shots they did give up on defensive were high percentage. Sure, you can complain about the first goal being called back, but that’s a discussion for another day. Despite solid time in the offensive zone, and countless opportunities, Nashville only netted 3 points. Facing off with a team like Pittsburgh, one that pushes the tempo and creates solid scoring opportunities, this just isn’t enough offense. Especially when your defensive lapses come at key moments late in the game.
(Courtesy of Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)
The offense didn’t produce. The defense gave up scoring opportunities that, for a team like Pittsburgh, were just automatic, and a combination like that is a total loser in a Stanley Cup Final.
After facing down some of the toughest teams in the NHL in these 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs a poor performance, and tough loss, came as a shock to the Predators. Everyone and their grandmother had to find something, or someone, to blame. With most everyone rooting on this underdog, panic from the loss set in and excuses had to be made and scapegoats found.
Rinne is the key player in Nashville getting this far, and he will need more support from the fans and, most importantly, the players around him if the Preds look to stand a chance going forward.
Grow up and stop scapegoating Pekka Rinne.