The Nashville Predators can credit much of their success this season to goaltender Pekka Rinne. His outstanding play has surely stolen games away and has given Nashville a chance to win every game they’ve played. Tuesday night against the Boston Bruins, the netminder that leads the NHL in wins, goals against average and save percentage, stopped all three shots in the shootout to guide the Predators to a 3-2 victory. What was going through Rinne’s mind before each attempt was made in the shootout?
“Not much,” said Rinne chuckling. “I was just trying to stop the shot, and it was a big goal by [Roy] right away in the shootout. That was enough to carry us to two points.”
For the game, Rinne stopped 33 of 35 shots, many of which he had zero business saving. The Bruins tested him during each period, peppering him with shots from everywhere and testing his post-to-post movement. Rinne was up to task and fully prepared to take on Boston.
“They’re one of the top teams,” said Rinne on the Bruins. “We don’t get to face them too many times since they play in the East. Any time you face those top teams, it’s always fun to play. It’s a good measuring stick for your team. I thought that both teams had their momentum swings during the game. Both teams had plenty of chances, but luckily for us we were able to pull that out at the end.”
Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette was as impressed as everyone else in Rinne’s play.
“He was phenomenal tonight,” said Laviolette. “There were so many good saves and so many big saves, timely saves when we needed it. He’s done tonight what he’s been doing all year, which is giving us an opportunity to win hockey games. He looks so sharp and so strong right now. He’s seeing the puck really well, and his recovery from the first shot is incredible.”
For a team as disciplined as the Predators, the penalty kill doesn’t need to take the ice nearly as often as other teams in the league. Nashville has only been shorthanded 41 times this season, tied for seventh in least amount of times on the kill in the league. Lately, the penalty kill has been stellar, as the Predators kept the Bruins from scoring on three power plays. This improved the club to 39 for 43 in the last 18 games.
“We’ve been solid on the PK for a pretty good stretch here,” said Rinne. “We really focus on that. Overall, on special teams, we’ve focused a lot time on it. I think you see it in our game and it’s been working fine.”
This year’s version of the Nashville Predators haven’t lacked exciting finishes. The team continues to find a way to win. Nashville now has 10 wins on the season when giving up the first goal, and have improved to 13-4-2 in games decided by one goal.
“You build up your confidence when you keep winning,” said Rinne. “You come to the rink every day and you work your hardest and expect to win. I think that’s a different mindset that we have. There’s not one reason why we keep winning, but it’s everybody in this locker room working hard and working for each other. That’s the biggest thing.”
Compared to last season, the bounces just seem to be going in favor of the Predators. Is it puck luck?
“I don’t think it’s luck,” said Rinne. “We’ve put together a pretty good stretch of games. You need some puck luck, too, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to earn your luck and work hard for it. I think, like tonight, we got a few pucks, like Ribeiro’s goal, it bounced for him. He made a nice shot. It was a nice goal.”
At the end of the night, Rinne earned the second star of the game and now has 20 wins on the season. The team will be back in action on Saturday as they take on the Wild in Minnesota.
View the entire Peter Laviolette press conference:
Photo Credit: Kristen Jerkins