We never quite know where that Pekka Rinne roulette ball is going to land.
The Predators No. 1 goaltender and 2018 Vezina Trophy candidate has seen his fair share of ups in recent postseason endeavours. And with a trip to the Western Conference Final on the line in Game 7 against Winnipeg, it was the, well, not-so-good version of Rinne who showed up.
The 35-year-old was victimized for two brutal goals on the first seven shots he faced before a snarling head coach Peter Laviolette yanked him in favour of Juuse Saros. It was the third time this series and fourth time in just 13 games that Rinne has been pulled this postseason.
The first of two conceded tallies that made up a nightmarish start for the Predators starter was this stinker from the corner and behind the goal line off the stick of defenceman Tyler Myers before the half-way mark of the opening frame:
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 11, 2018
As Myers swoops toward the net after picking up the puck at the goal line, Rinne sets up in a glove-side reverse VH with his near pad against the post and parallel to the ice, and his far leg at a 90-degree angle. He’s in good shape, for the most part, aside from the position of his stick — which is sitting about 6 inches out rather than resting flush against his skate.
His post-side (left) pad is also not tight enough against the pipe, leaving just enough room for the puck to slide in through the smallest of holes. A couple lucky breaks, maybe, but also a pair of simple, devastating technical mistakes which put the Preds in an early bind.
The bleeding didn’t stop there. Not only was the timing of the second sloppy goal allowed by Rinne not ideal — it came just 2:06 after Myers opened the scoring — but the optics were just as unpleasant, especially his post-play.
— #BelieveInTheJets Nation (@NHLJetsNation) May 11, 2018
Producing his fifth tally of the playoffs (what a pickup he’s turned out to be for the Jets), Stastny hunted down a tip-and-chase zone entry behind the Preds’ net and attempted a backhand jam-play, which was foiled before he whacked his own rebound behind Rinne’s back and in.
Rinne seems to lose his net following the skate-stop on the original wraparound, allowing his momentum to slightly carry him to his left. Unable to control his motion and losing site of the puck for a brief moment, the Nashville goaltender came off his post and gave Stastny a nice white chunk of net to shoot at on his second attempt.
The veteran netminder was quick to take the blame for the abrupt ending to his team’s season.
“I feel very much responsible for the season ending at this point. I felt good, no injuries, totally healthy, but total ups and downs throughout the playoffs, biggest moment of the season — it’s a terrible feeling when you let your teammates down, and that’s what happened tonight,” he said to reporters after the game.
It’s been a tale of two Pekka’s this postseason, to say the least, as the frontrunner for this year’s Vezina Trophy recorded a minuscule 1.75 GAA with a .943 Sv% in Nashville’s seven wins.
While in his five playoff losses entering Thursday, he posted a GAA of 5.26 and a save percentage of .843. He would end up taking another L in Game 7, with Stastny’s tuck counting as the game-winner in Winnipeg’s 4-1 win.
That’s how it goes come the postseason.