On Rinne, his road struggles, and the Luongo dynamic

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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.

Canucks name new head coach of AHL affiliate

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The Vancouver Canucks have finally settled on a head coach for their AHL affiliate.

Today, Trent Cull was named new bench boss of the Utica Comets.

Cull replaces Travis Green, the new head coach of the Canucks.

“Trent is a passionate head coach with significant AHL experience,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said in a release. “He understands the development path of a young player, including the challenges they face, and has been a part of many successful organizations. Trent is a teacher with a positive, energetic work ethic. We’re excited to welcome him and his family to our organization.”

The past four seasons, Cull has been an assistant coach for AHL Syracuse. The Crunch made it all the way to the 2017 Calder Cup Final, where they lost to Grand Rapids.

Cull, 43, has never been a head coach in the AHL, though he did hold that role for three years with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves from 2010-13.

It’s believed the Canucks’ first choice for the Utica job was Rocky Thompson. However, Thompson chose instead to become head coach of Vegas’ AHL affiliate in Chicago.

Construction worker dies after fall at Detroit arena

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DETROIT (AP) A worker has died after falling 75 feet at the Little Caesars Arena worksite north of downtown Detroit.

Deputy Detroit Fire Commissioner David Fornell says the 46-year-old man was in cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived about 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Other workers had started cardiopulmonary resuscitation which first responders continued. The man was taken to a Detroit hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Fornell says officials were told the man was an electrical worker and may have fallen from a catwalk. He says the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration likely will investigate.

The arena will be home to the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and the NBA’s Pistons. It is scheduled to open this fall.

More on the story from the Detroit Free Press

Habs extend De La Rose — one year, $725,000

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Montreal secured some forward depth on Wednesday, agreeing to terms with Jacob De La Rose.

De La Rose, 22, was taken 34th overall at the 2013 draft and has appeared in 64 games for Montreal over the last three seasons. He had a nice debut for the club in ’14-15 — appearing in 33 regular-season contests, and 12 playoff games — but has since spent the majority of his time in AHL St. John’s.

That might not be the case moving forward, however.

De La Rose’s deal is worth $725,000 (per TSN) and, importantly, is of the one-way variety. There could be more opportunities at forward next season. Montreal has already said it’ll pass on bringing back UFAs Brian Flynn and Dwight King, and it’s unclear if the club will get a deal done with Alexander Radulov.

It’s also unclear what GM Marc Bergevin plans to do with Alex Galchenyuk, who’s been the subject of numerous trade rumors.

Even after bad season in Buffalo, Kulikov generating strong interest as UFA

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Dmitry Kulikov had a bad season in Buffalo. There’s no debating that.

Not only did the defenseman struggle statistically, finishing minus-26 with just two goals and three assists, he also had trouble staying healthy, appearing in just 47 games for the Sabres.

But despite all that, Kulikov seems to be generating plenty of interest as an unrestricted free agent. Presumably, the hope among his many suitors is that he can bounce back, so long as he’s put in a better situation.

Kulikov is still just 26. And before he was traded to Buffalo a year ago, he’d had a number of respectable seasons with the Florida Panthers.

It’s why the Sabres were so happy to get him.

“He’s a good player,” then-GM Tim Murray said last June, per NHL.com. “I like guys that are honest, I like guys that are hard to play against, I certainly like guys that can make a tape-to-tape pass, and with our forwards, I think if he can make a tape-to-tape pass, good things are going to happen in transition with the skill and speed we already have here, so he’s just a great fit.”

Of course, it wasn’t a great fit, and Murray is no longer the GM.

As for Kulikov, there’s “about a dozen” interested teams, according to his agent. Ottawa and Winnipeg are believed to be among them.