NHL.com: Preds still believe Rinne can be game-changer
NASHVILLE -- Predators coach Barry Trotz held up his hand to signal a zero.
"We've given him this much help," Trotz said of goalie Pekka Rinne.
Rinne, who was recently named a Vezina Trophy finalist for the second straight season and who dominated Detroit in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, has given up goals at a much higher rate in the first two games of Nashville's series with Phoenix, which is a major reason why the Preds find themselves down 0-2 on Wednesday entering Game 3 at Bridgestone Arena.
However, the Preds have rushed to Rinne's defense to say that those goals are a reflection of team play, not the play of their goalie. The Predators have allowed nine goals through two games against Phoenix, as many as they did in the entire Detroit series in which Rinne posted a 1.81 goals-against average and .944 save percentage.
So far against Phoenix, Rinne's save percentage has plummeted to .857.
Asked for an appraisal of his play, Rinne said he thinks he could be better, but did offer a slight hint that his play could be a reflection of the team's play around him.
"It's two games, nine goals against, it's rough, but at the same time you try to stay honest to yourself," Rinne said. "For sure, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I always want to help my team win the game. I want to be able to make a little bit of difference in the game. Now, I haven't been able to do that in the first two games. For sure, it's something I want to be better at, but also it always goes hand in hand.
"You can steal a game here and there, but as a goalie you kind of go together with your team. When you're both playing well, it's a good combination."
Right now, the Preds are not playing well. Against Detroit, they outscored the Red Wings at even strength, 11-5. Thus far against Phoenix, they have been outscored 8-3.
Defenseman Hal Gill, who did not play in the first round, was asked for an estimation of Rinne's play.
"We played a lot better defensively in the first round and we haven't been solid for him and that's the only difference I've seen," Gill said.
Predators goaltending coach Mitch Korn said he likes everything about the way that Rinne is playing.
"I have no issues," Korn said. "He's in a good place, a good frame of mind. I think it's a little Murphy's Law and a little bit how the games have gone have been just goofy."
That goofiness includes a goal in Game 2 in which the Preds' David Legwand gloved the puck behind the net and inexplicably threw it in front of the goal, leading to a score by Phoenix's Radim Vrbata.
Nashville also has had awful defensive breakdowns with defensemen getting caught up ice or falling down, in one case leading to one 2-on-1 goal in which Mikkel Boedker virtually stopped as he came down the right wing, giving himself plenty of time to pick the right spot on another goal.
It's not the first time Rinne has given up his share of goals in a Stanley Cup Playoffs series. Last year against Anaheim in the first round, Nashville won in six games, but it was a high-scoring series. Rinne yielded 19 goals in the six games and had a 3.29 GAA and .876 save percentage.
Trotz and Rinne said the big difference between that series and this one so far is the way the Ducks' power play functioned at a very high level.
"It's a little different animal this year against Phoenix," Rinne said. "They play such a great team game. They play the way we need to play, as well. If we do that, there will be a great battle til the end of this series. Now, it's our chance to turn it around at home."
Trotz has made only the mildest comments about Rinne in the last few days. On Tuesday, he lumped him in with all of Nashville's top players – Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, etc. – whom he said need to be better.
Korn said that while Rinne faced many difficult chances against Detroit, the nature of this series has been different.
"I think the way the games went that we didn't give him a chance to be good," Korn said, "because they've been bizarre goals and unique circumstances… and a couple just goofy scenarios that we haven't given him a chance to be good or to be as dominant as he was in the last series."
They are hoping on Wednesday, they do give him that chance.
Author: John Manasso | NHL.com Correspondent