Rinne has been in the middle of a really good run of play this season. As the Detroit broadcast team pointed out, he was seventh in the league this season in 5-on-5 save percentage (just over .930). He’s made handfuls of highlight-reel saves that give us glimpses of the goalie who single-handedly willed the Nashville Predators to wins they had no business getting.
And then he has nights like this.
Those last three goals he surrendered were just flat-out ugly, and we’ll break that down a little more in depth later on. It’s frustrating because Rinne is overall playing really well, arguably the best he’s looked since his Vezina season. But these “softies” have become a bit of a recurring story this season. A few of those every now and then are bound to happen, sure. But this year in particular, where the room for error is slim-to-none and every player on the team is under the microscope, it’s a more glaring concern.
To be fair, however, it’s not like the team in front of him did gangbusters either...
A few minutes into the game the Red Wings got what I can’t even say was “a good look on goal”—it was more of a Yakety Sax sequence—and Luke Glendening scored on his own rebound while being pushed behind the goal by Mikael Granlund, the only Preds skater that shift who impressed me at all defensively.
The Predators would have to survive a few more Detroit chances over the next several minutes, including another little razzle-dazzle sequence from Vlad Namestikov that looked like a throwback to Gustav Nyquist’s “let’s just skate in a circle for 45 seconds and wait until the defense gets bored and lets me shoot” routine. Credit to Nashville though: around the ten-minute mark, the Preds really started to turn up their game.
That wound up paying off with—of all things—a power-play goal! Roman Josi set up Mikael Granlund with a b.e.a.utiful pass right to the front of the net. Jonathan Bernier made the initial save, but Granlund had plenty of time to hit home the rebound to make it 1-1. That wound up being the score after the first intermission.
The start of the second period proved to be relatively uneventful aside from a Christian Djoos shot that beat Rinne, but clanged off the post (the Red Wings hit the post three different times during the game). Each team got a power play chance within the first half of the period, but neither could convert.
Detroit did, however, take advantage of an absolute howler from Rinne. Sam Gagner, from behind the goal line, bounced a shot off Pekka’s skate and into the net to make it 2-1 Red Wings. On the replay, it looked like Gagner was simply trying to blindly pass towards traffic in front of the net, and the puck just found daylight between Rinne’s skate and the goal.
On the play after the goal, Glendening shoved Granlund into the boards. Ben Harpur immediately skated up and grabbed Glendening, causing a scrum. I mention this to give kudos to Harpur, because one of my complaints about recent Preds teams is that we rarely see players rush in and stuck up their teammates after a questionable hit or other tomfoolery. And no, I’m not saying you have to go out and drop the gloves after every physical play. But I think back to the Ellis-Goodrow incident from earlier this year or Bortuzzo manhandling Arvidsson last season, and not seeing players rush in to “fight back,” so to speak. So good on Harpur for at least sending a message.
The Red Wings very nearly made it 3-1 with five minutes left in the period. Dylan Larkin swiped the puck right off Mark Borowiecki’s stick right in front of Rinne, but Pekks slid over to make the stop.
On the reverse side, the Preds very nearly tied the game, but... Haula... buddy...
Like... was his controller turned off? What in the world happened here? pic.twitter.com/pb6AVf2T3q— Alex Daugherty (@AlexDaugherty1) February 26, 2021
The Predators did wind up tying the game just 2:55 into the third period. Ryan Ellis put a quick shot on net off a faceoff win. Bernier made the initial stop, but Erik Haula knocked the rebound out of mid-air into the net to make it 2-2. That was Haula’s first goal as a Predator.
Nashville controlled play for most of the period, but another soft goal, again from Sam Gagner, was their undoing. His shot from the right circle once again bounced off Rinne’s pad and into the net to make it 3-2 Detroit.
Sadly, a few minutes later, we’d see a similar story. Pekka blocks a shot, loses sight of the rebound, and Adam Erne taps it in to make it 4-2 Detroit.
Gagner would add an empty-netter just 30 seconds later to complete his hat trick (his first three goals of the year) to make it 5-2. That was the final score.
- Dare I say...*leans in close to whisper*...the Predators’ power play has been GOOD lately? Granlund’s goal in the first was Nashville’s fourth goal on the man advantage in the past three games, and they’re just at 31% over the past six games. Apart from the stats, they just look sharper. There’s more movement apart from the “pass among the three players up top” strategy, they’re utilizing Gretzky’s office to get the defense turned around, and they seem to be prioritizing opening up space around the net instead of prioritizing setting up a one-timer from the point.
- I gave kudos to Ben Harpur a little bit for his intimidating “Imma not let you do that to my teammates” prowess, but I’ve also been lowkey impressed by his actual play. He’s not blowing anyone away, necessarily; he’s simply making all the plays he SHOULD be making, and for a player in his spot on the depth chart, that’s enough. Plus, his tendency to stay rooted in a more “stay-at-home” role has given his partner, Dante Fabbro, a bit more leeway to push play and become a facilitator for the offense.
- The whole “Viktor Arvidsson keeps taking slapshots from 30 feet away when he has a chance at taking the puck all the way to the net” thing keeps happening.
- Mark Borowiecki is a guy I’ve been a little disappointed in so far this season. We mentioned his turnover late in the second that very easily could have resulted in a Red Wings goal. On the first goal, he was back in the high slot while Granlund was all alone trying to keep Glendening from getting a second, then third, then fourth whack at the loose puck in front of the net. Borowiecki was brought in to be that “sandpaper” guy, the physical presence who makes it painful to try for those garbage goals. You would have loved to see him play back and clear the net a little better.
- Pekka... I had literally written a piece praising him for bouncing back after that soft goal in the second period, when his second soft goal eluded him. That’s sort of been a frustrating story for Rinne this season. He’s made a ton of incredible saves this season, including a handful tonight. But then he’ll follow that by letting in a goal he 100% should have easily stopped.