On Rinne, his road struggles, and the Luongo dynamic

1 Comment

NASHVILLE — The statistical splits are eye-popping, and hard to ignore.

Pekka Rinne at home during the Stanley Cup Final: 2-0, .962 save percentage, 1.00 GAA.

Rinne on the road: 0-3, .756 save percentage, 5.40 GAA.

It’s as if two different goalies show up at the rinks.The good one makes his appearances at Bridgestone Arena. The bad one surfaces at PPG Paints.

But to hear Rinne’s teammates and coach explain it, there’s no such thing as Home Pekka or Road Pekka.

“He’s the same every day,” head coach Peter Laviolette said on Saturday, ahead of tomorrow’s Game 6 at Bridgestone Arena. “He works hard every day. His habits seem to be the same, his demeanor seems the same to me.

“We’ve got to do a better job in front of him. You go back and you watch the game and the way it was played, and we made mistakes in front of him. There are things that we can do to support our goaltender better.”

The Preds were poor in Game 5, no doubt. Sidney Crosby stamped his authority just seconds in, knifing through the Nashville defense to ring the post on a backhand chance, drawing a penalty in the process. The Pens converted with the man advantage, the first of three goals scored on Rinne on just nine shots.

After that, he was done.

Laviolette parked Rinne in favor of Juuse Saros, a move that might pay off in the long run. Just ask Alain Vigneault and Roberto Luongo.

Back in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, Vancouver’s head coach infamously kept his No. 1 netminder in for all eight goals in an 8-1 blowout at TD Garden in Game 3.

More, from NHL.com:

“Alain asked me with eight minutes left and I said I wanted to stay in,” Luongo answered while standing in front of a huge media scrum in a dwarfed visitor’s dressing room at TD Garden. “I didn’t really want to leave the crease.”
 
Vigneault said the timing was slightly different, that he actually confronted Luongo about coming out after Jannik Hansen scored to bust Tim Thomas’ shutout in the other crease with 6:07 remaining. Nevertheless, he confirmed Luongo’s answer.
 
“He said, ‘Don’t even think about taking me out,’ so that’s what I did,” Vigneault said.

That decision was arguably Vigneault’s most polarizing during his time in Vancouver. It’s been argued Luongo was mentally frayed following the incident, to the point where playing at TD Garden was in his head.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest it.

Luongo was ventilated in his next two games in Boston, including a pivotal Game 6 in which the Canucks had their first chance to win the series. He was hooked less than nine minutes in, after allowing three goals on eight shots.

All told, Luongo finished the Cup Final with an 0-3 record, .773 save percentage and 8.05 GAA in Boston.

Rinne talked about the psychology of getting pulled from Game 5. Remember, the decision to go to Saros wasn’t a layup for Laviolette. Nashville trailed 3-0 in Game 1 too, but rallied — with Rinne in goal — to even things up.

“You’re not happy, obviously, but I never take it personally,” Rinne said. “It’s not about me, it’s all about us. I try not to take it personally, and [think] the reasoning behind it is it tries to wake up the team. If I’m not getting the job done, we put the other guy in. And we have a great young goalie in Juuse Saros.

“I was angry after the first period, but that’s just the nature of being a competitive guy.”

Combined, all of this — the home-road thing, the hook in Game 5, the Bridgestone effect — makes for a fascinating situation heading into Sunday’s tilt.

Because now, everybody’s watching to see which Pekka shows up.

The Buzzer: Job of the Hutton

Getty
2 Comments

Players of the Night

  • Carter Hutton has quietly been playing well when used (sparingly) by the St. Louis Blues, but he stepped into the spotlight on Saturday, guiding his team to a 2-0 win against the Winnipeg Jets.

The high-powered Jets fired 48 shots on goal in this one, yet none beat Hutton, who nabbed the ninth shutout of his solid career. The 31-year-old bumped his save percentage up to a whopping .949 so far in 2017-18. He set a Blues record in doing so.

  • On Friday, Jack Eichel collected a hat trick and an assist in a losing effort. Gabriel Landeskog upped the ante one night later – literally – by scoring three goals and two assists in a game his Avalanche managed to lose anyway.

As much attention as Nathan MacKinnon is grabbing (rightfully, as he added two goals to his impressive season so far), this marks the second hat trick of the season for Landeskog. Not bad with it still being 2017, and all.

This was a pretty nasty game between the Avalanche and Lightning, at least at times.

Some key highlights

Technically, you can spell overtime without Alex Ovechkin

(Ovechkin’s already in select GWG company.)

Shayne Gostisbehere scored both of Philly’s goals, but the antics between Wayne Simmonds and Ben Bishop were the real highlight here:

Speaking of Nathan MacKinnon, this is something else:

Mathew Barzal to Jordan Eberle a combination that torments Darcy Kuemper in overtime and Peter Chiarelli, always:

Finally, Jonathan Gibson flashes the glove in defeat:

Factoids

The Lightning keep piling up different milestones and accomplishments, with Mikhail Sergachev ranking among those today (as Tampa Bay won its seventh in a row):

The cold weather didn’t slow Erik Karlsson down (more on that outdoor game here):

Pekka Rinne‘s really been rattling off some milestones lately.

Scores

Oilers 3, Wild 2
Rangers 3, Bruins 2 (OT)
Blues 2, Jets 0
Islanders 4, Kings 3 (OT)
Hurricanes 2, Blue Jackets 1
Flyers 2, Stars 1 (OT)
Senators 3, Canadiens 0
Capitals 3, Ducks 2 (OT)
Penguins 4, Coyotes 2
Lightning 6, Avalanche 5
Predators 2, Flames 0

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Fight video: Brouwer makes Watson pay for Hathaway hit

7 Comments

Austin Watson nodded with recognition after landing a questionable hit on Garnet Hathaway on Saturday, as he understood why Troy Brouwer demanded immediate retribution.

And, as you can see from the video above the headline, Brouwer got that bloody payback after beating Watson in a fight.

Watson (who isn’t that far removed from a two-game suspension) was ejected for his hit. It wasn’t the only nasty moment between the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames, either, as the toxic exchanges included Anthony Bitetto‘s ugly cross-check on Sam Bennett.

(Video or a GIF of Bitetto’s hit will be added if it becomes available.)

Some other penalties reduced some of the advantage for the Flames, but they ultimately still received serious man-advantage opportunities amid all of the violence, and they weren’t able to convert.

The best news is that Hathaway might end up being OK after a scary-looking check. He returned to the game during the third period.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Should Erik Johnson be suspended for ugly play on Namestnikov?

5 Comments

Vladislav Namestnikov has been the Mikael Renberg equivalent on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Legion of Doom with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov for much of this season, complimenting those two scorers with strong work of his own.

The Lightning were lighting up the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, perhaps frustrating Erik Johnson and others. Whatever the explanation might be, it was a pretty ugly sight when Johnson slashed and then boarded Namestnikov, earning those two penalties plus a game misconduct.

Plenty of people believe that supplemental discipline would be merited for Johnson’s actions. For what it’s worth, “Names” did return to action in the third period. We’ve seen instances where players return only to be hurt anyway, so we’ll see if the nifty winger sees any delayed issues.

Johnson, 29, was suspended for two games by the NHL back in 2014, but has a generally clean history otherwise.

The Lightning ultimately ended up beating the Avalanche 6-5, as Nathan MacKinnon almost led a rally with two power-play goals.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Senators blank Canadiens in NHL 100 Classic

2 Comments

One win, even in the frosty outdoors for the NHL 100 Classic, only means so much.

Still, the Ottawa Senators probably experienced some ice-cold relief on Saturday, beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 during a tightly defended outdoor bout.

It was 0-0 for much of the game until Jean-Gabriel Pageau tipped an Erik Karlsson shot for the first goal with about five minutes remaining in the second period. Bobby Ryan then capitalized on a rough Jonathan Drouin turnover to make it 2-0, while an empty-netter iced the icy evening for Ottawa.

For a night, it was a fun time, and Karlsson reminded us what all the fuss is about, as he logged a ridiculous 32:55 of ice time. And he seemed to be having a good time doing it.

This night laid the “Canadian” on thick, with Bryan Adams performing during the event, and Gary Bettman posing for photos with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

via Getty

Weird, but OK then.

Generally speaking, things haven’t been that OK for the Senators lately. Such headaches did surface during this frosty-mug-on-ice event, as owner Eugene Melnyk inspired a #Melnykout hashtag on Twitter, not to mention icy barbs like these.

Fair criticisms about the Sens’ bigger picture aside, Ottawa looked nice tonight, with Karlsson shining and Craig Anderson pitching a rare shutout outdoors (shutoutdoors)?

Carey Price generated some nice saves of his own, but couldn’t will Montreal to win in his 10th consecutive start. The Habs rarely got things going against the Senators, seen most easily in Ottawa’s 38-28 advantage in shots on goal.

Nights like these make a bigger impact on fans’ memories and bottom lines, but this marks consecutive wins for the Senators either way. Considering the fact that the Senators hadn’t put back-to-back wins together since they faced the Avalanche in two contests in Sweden, it might not be a big deal, yet it’s far better than the nothing they’ve been coming up with far too often lately.

Also

In other news from the event, Mario Lemieux’s “five goals, five different ways” was named as the NHL’s greatest moment, voted by fans:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.