While the team overall didn’t play terribly on Sunday, there’s no question this was the roughest night of the playoffs for Pekka Rinne.
Stopping only 22 of 26 shots, he finished with an 84.6 save percentage—his lowest of the playoffs so far. While he still made some key saves in the 3rd period to keep the Predators in the game, his attempt to stop Nick Ritchie’s go-ahead goal was not his best effort.
“As a goalie there’s a lot of times you think you feel like you could have saved all of them, but that one for sure,” Pekka Rinne said after the game on Sunday. “It was bad timing, too. 3-3 game and go down like that, it’s a tough break, a tough play. Personally, for sure I want to have that back.”
But the damage is done and the Predators, Rinne especially, need to bounce back in Game 3 on Tuesday.
“But now we’re heading home and we have another opportunity at home. That’s the best part of it,” Rinne added.
Sunday’s effort was only Rinne’s ninth career Really Bad Start (RBS) in the playoffs. RBS is a stat developed by Rob Vollman in the Hockey Abstract that counts every time a goalie finishes with a save percentage below 85.0%.
While an RBS from a goalie is never a good thing, here’s the silver lining: Rinne is consistent with his badness. His rate of bad starts in the playoffs falls in line almost exactly with his rate of bad starts in the regular season.
So it is unlikely Rinne will have many more of these starts in this playoff run. It could certainly happen, but it’s just not very likely.
Most goalies are prone to a bad outing every once in a while. What matters is how they respond to it. This season Rinne has done a nice job rebounding from his bad starts.
I included Game 2 of the St. Louis series in this calculation even though technically it isn’t an RBS because it’s exactly 85.0%. But I think it’s a good measurement of how Rinne has been playing recently.
Bouncing back after a bad start with something around his career save percentage is a sign of a confident goalie. It shows he is able to immediately move past the performance from the previous game and take on the next challenge immediately.
In fact, one of those games featured back-to-back starts: Rinne followed that bad game against the Panthers in February with a decent (though not great) performance against the Stars the very next day.
(Reminder: starting goalies in back-to-back games is an awful, terrible, no good, bad idea)
Most recently, Rinne followed up the Game 2 loss in St. Louis with a solid performance in Game 3 in Nashville. He stopped 22 of 23 shots and the Predators really pushed the Blues around in a 3-1 win.
We all knew that a save percentage of plus .950 was simply not going to hold up in this playoff run. No goalie can maintain that pace over the course of 20 games in the regular season, let alone the playoffs.
Rinne needs to push past Sunday and look ahead to Tuesday. I’m confident he will do that.