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.
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“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.