Tag: Pekka Rinne

Pekka Rinne

Without Shea Weber, Predators can’t contain Hawks in Game 3


Nashville earned a commanding 6-2 victory over Chicago on Friday to even the first round series at 1-1, but that was back when they were playing at the Bridgestone Arena. Throughout the season, the Predators have done significantly worse on the road and that trend continued with their 4-2 loss to Chicago this afternoon.

Which isn’t to suggest that the change in venue was the only factor in this game. Losing top-tier defenseman Shea Weber clearly hurt Nashville tonight. The fact that he’ll also be absent for Game 4 on Tuesday should be an area of substantial concern for the Predators. Part of the reason for that is goaltender Pekka Rinne’s shaky play as of late.

Early this season Rinne looked like a Vezina Trophy candidate, but as the campaign went on, Rinne declined substantially. He had a 2.48 GAA and .911 save percentage in 27 contests after the All-Star break and those struggles have carried into the playoffs. The Predators did make defensive mistakes which contributed to this loss, but it’s also true that Rinne wasn’t able to bail his defense out often enough tonight.

At the other end of the ice, Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling did a great job in his first start of the playoffs. Given Corey Crawford’s 6.75 GAA and .809 save percentage in two games against Nashville, it would be interesting if coach Joel Quenneville decided to go back to his veteran netminder for Game 4.

Chicago’s Jonathan Toews also had a big game with a goal and an assist while Brandon Saad’s marker proved to be the winner.

The Blackhawks have a 2-1 series lead with with two of the last four contests scheduled to be played in Chicago.

Video: Hawks, Preds trade goals 31-seconds apart

Winnipeg Jets vs Nashville Predators

Blackhawks forward Andrew Desjardins, who is making his series debut this afternoon, made his presence felt early.

Desjardins got his own rebound and beat Pekka Rinne for his third career playoff goal.

However, the lead was short lived as Mike Ribeiro responded just 31-second later with his first of the playoffs.

Bulletin-board material: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup

Sidney Crosby

This is the third straight year (2013, 2014) we’ve done this, and so far we’ve only been wrong twice. Try and find more accurate NHL predictions than that. 

Calgary Flames: The worst team to make the playoffs. And we’re not even talking about their advanced stats, which are indeed awful. According to the standings, they were the worst team to make the playoffs. In a related story, it’s kinda funny how people are comparing this year’s Flames to last year’s Avalanche. Um, hello? The Avs won the Central and had a Vezina Trophy finalist in goal. The Flames finished third in the Pacific and have Jonas Hiller in goal. On top of that, they’re without Mark Giordano. Good. Night.

Vancouver Canucks: The second-worst team to make the playoffs. Somehow, the Canucks were lucky enough to match up with the Flames in the first round. Their luck won’t last long, though. Vancouver entered the season with the misguided goal of getting back to the playoffs, and can’t stop bragging that it accomplished that goal. While ownership will be happy with a couple of playoff gates, what this team really did was blow its chance to start a much-needed rebuild, and in a draft year with two “generational” talents to boot. Instead, the Canucks think they can “continue to build this team and be a playoff contender every year,” which is another way of saying they’d like to have their cake and eat it too. Question: if Jim Benning is such a genius at identifying talent, how does one explain Luca Sbisa?

Ottawa Senators: It’s hard to criticize these guys after what they did to make the playoffs. True, they got their coach fired because he was too mean to them, but 23-3-3 is 23-3-3. It’ll actually be too bad when Andrew Hammond falls back to earth over the next few weeks. The Hamburglar’s been a great story, from not being very good in college and the minors to what he’s done at the highest level of the game. He will fall back to earth though. The playoffs are a whole different animal, and Hammond — a 27-year-old undrafted rookie — is not the next Patrick Roy or Ken Dryden.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Remember when these guys were going to be the next great dynasty? It was funny then and it’s even funnier now, because we don’t recall the 83-84 Oilers needing to beat the worst team in the NHL on the last day of the season just to make the playoffs. But that’s what the Pens needed. And boy were they completely unconvincing against the Sabres. Talk about zero confidence. Talk about no killer instinct. The Penguins could’ve easily lost that game. “It hasn’t been easy,” said Ben Lovejoy. “I’m proud of the way we were able to close it out tonight.” Yeah, way to go. You showed a lot of heart losing five in a row then barely defeating a historically bad team. Good luck against the Presidents’ Trophy winners.

Detroit Red Wings: It’s one thing to bench your big-money goalie for a young guy who’s playing out of his mind. It’s quite another to park him for Petr Mrazek, a 23-year-old with no playoff experience and a save percentage (.918) that isn’t even that great. That’s how poorly Jimmy Howard played down the stretch. And make no mistake, the Wings have issues beyond goaltending. They were a mediocre possession team in the second half of the season, and there’s no way Pavel Datsyuk is 100 percent. Enjoy Mike Babcock while he’s still behind the bench, Wings fans. (Which should be about five, maybe six, more games.)

Winnipeg Jets: You have to be happy for Jets fans. It’s been a long time since meaningful hockey was played in Winnipeg, and it’s going to be a tough assignment to beat the home side at MTS Centre. Except, of course, for the fact the Jets are the least disciplined team in the league, as ably demonstrated here by Dustin Byfuglien. Oh, and they don’t really have an elite center either. Also, Ondrej Pavelec is their goalie. (Other than that, though.) And please, PLEASE don’t argue that Pavelec is good now. Yes, he had a strong finish. But he’s shown flashes in the past too, only to revert back to what he really is — a below-average NHL goalie.

Montreal Canadiens: Unlike Pavelec, Carey Price is decidedly not below average. He’s actually the favorite to win the Hart Trophy, which would make him the first goalie to win the award since Jose Theodore did it for the Habs in 2001-02. Hey, how did that turn out anyway? Oh right, Theodore was just OK in the playoffs and Montreal lost to Carolina in the second round. Goaltending: impossible to predict and incredibly risky to rely on. That’s why teams that are good at possessing the puck are better bets. Puck possession is a team thing, so if one guy falters or gets hurt, it’s not the end of the world. By the way, the Habs were the worst possession team to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

Washington Capitals: One of the most improved teams in the NHL still doesn’t have what it takes to win it all. That’s basically what Barry Trotz admitted a few months ago, and he was absolutely right. Asking Evgeny Kuznetsov to play first- or second-line center in the playoffs is way too much to ask. He’s a 22-year-old rookie. Even if he’s “come a long way over the last two months,” he’s still got a ways to go. The Caps simply aren’t strong enough down the middle, period. (Admit it, you all thought this was going to be a screed against Alex Ovechkin, and how he’s never won anything of meaning and never will. Nah, we’ll wait until they’re eliminated for that.)

Minnesota Wild: Sure, we could point out that Devan Dubnyk got run into the ground by Mike Yeo and, come April, the goalie savior started to show a few cracks. But the reason the Wild won’t win the Stanley Cup is because they won’t score enough goals. The power play stinks, and if they’re counting on Thomas Vanek to produce in the playoffs, well, let’s just say he hasn’t always been at his best in big games. Need another reason? The Wild aren’t deep enough on defense, and that can be big-time problematic in the playoffs.

Anaheim Ducks: The most overrated team in the NHL. Goals per game: 11th. Goals against: 20th. Power play: 28th. Penalty kill: 15th. Those aren’t the numbers of a Stanley Cup champ. In fact, the Ducks (+10) had the worst goal-differential of the 16 teams to make the playoffs. “If you look at teams that have won the Cup, they’re high in the defensive standings — L.A. was the best defensive team last year, won the Cup. Chicago before that, won it. When Boston won … there’s definitely a trend there.” You know who said that? It was Bruce Boudreau.

Tampa Bay Lightning: What seemed like a savvy preseason pick doesn’t seem quite so smart anymore. Yes, the Lightning score a lot of goals, but they don’t keep them out of their net particularly well, ranking 12th in that category. The year after being named a Vezina finalist, Ben Bishop predictably regressed and finished with a so-so save percentage of .916. Also remember that Bishop, 28, has never played in the playoffs. This is a young team that may win a Cup in the future, but it’s not quite ready yet.

New York Islanders: Can the Isles win a playoff series for the first time since 1993? We only ask this question so we can point out the fact that the Isles haven’t won a playoff series since 1993. It’s pretty sad how far the standards have fallen on Long Island. A fan base that once celebrated four straight championships now holds up Jaroslav Halak as some sort of goaltending god for having a .914 save percentage. Meanwhile, everyone’s doing cartwheels because Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, two good-but-not-great defensemen that were deemed expendable by their former teams, actually agreed to re-sign. The Isles finished the regular season with four wins in their last 14. Maybe they’ll raise the bar when they get to Brooklyn.

Nashville Predators: Similar to the Islanders, the Preds got off to a great start and had people debating whether they were legit Stanley Cup contenders. This despite the glaring facts that Mike Ribeiro was their first-line center and they had a rookie by the name of Filip Forsberg who was piling up points at an unsustainably high rate. Yada, yada, yada, the Preds went 8-13-4 in their last 25 games, including six straight losses to finish the season. Bottom line: this team is gonna be done real quick if Pekka Rinne doesn’t find his game. He gave up 17 goals in his last five outings combined.

New York Rangers: Back in March, a handful of Rags faithful got all hot and bothered when we pointed out the Blueshirts were “good but not great” down the middle. As if hockey fans everywhere should marvel at the amazing talent the Rangers had assembled to play center for their spectacular team. Sorry, but Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan, Kevin Hayes, and Dominic Moore are pretty much the definition of “good but not great.” Which, hey, is better than “fine but not good”; however, when you consider the truly great centers that Cup champs almost always possess, not to mention the Rangers’ worrying possession numbers, it’s really not hard to doubt this team. On the bright side, at least Alain Vigneault has another Presidents’ Trophy to his name.

St. Louis Blues: The new San Jose Sharks. Or maybe the Sharks were the new St. Louis Blues. After all, the Blues were choking in the playoffs long before the Sharks started gagging away successful regular seasons. Six times in franchise history have the Blues amassed over 100 points, only to fall well short when the games start counting. This season was their seventh with more than 100 points, so of course they drew one of the league’s hottest teams in the first round. But it’s not a cursed history or tough opponent that will doom the Blues. It’s questionable goaltending (another Blues tradition) and a coach that can’t stop himself from over-coaching.

Chicago Blackhawks: Fun fact about the ‘Hawks: Out of the 16 teams to make the playoffs, only Ottawa and Winnipeg finished with fewer regulation/overtime wins. Another fact: If instead of going 9-3 in the shootout they’d gone 3-9, they’d have made the playoffs by one measly point. And yet the ‘Hawks remain Stanley Cup favorites in the eyes of many. Have people not been paying attention? The simple truth is, these guys have not been playing at an elite level since the Winter Classic. Antoine Vermette hasn’t been the answer, and Kimmo Timonen’s not the answer either, based on the 40-year-old’s dreadful possession stats. Just do us a favor and don’t act surprised when Chicago’s eliminated in the first or second round, OK?

NHL on NBCSN: Preds, ‘Hawks look to snap skids in series opener

Peter Laviolette

NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight as the Nashville Predators host the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of their first round matchup at Bridgestone Arena with puck drop at 8:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

For the second time in five seasons the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators will meet in the playoffs. Chicago used six games to dispatch Nashville in the first round of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs on the way to capturing the franchise’s first cup since 1961.

Both teams enter the playoffs trying to shake losing skids.

Chicago lost four straight to conclude the regular season while Nashville went 0-4-2 after clinching its first playoff berth in three seasons. The skid forced the Preds, who led the Central Division for much of the season, to finish second behind St. Louis.

The Blackhawks took the season series winning three games, but the Central Division foes have not met since Dec. 29.

Chicago expects to get a boost from the return of Patrick Kane, who has been cleared for ‘full participation’. Kane had 27 goals and 64 points prior to being sidelined with a fractured left clavicle on Feb. 24.

Antoine Vermette, who was acquired by Chicago from Arizona prior to the trade deadline, could be a healthy scratch in the series opener.

The Predators hope goaltender Pekka Rinne can regain his form, which saw him finish tied for second in the league with 41 wins. Rinne dropped his final four starts of the season posting a 3.42 G.A.A. and an .857 save percentage.

Nashville owned the Western Conference’s top home record at 28-9-4 this season while Chicago went 24-16-1 on the road.

(Related) Pressing Playoff Question: Can the Blackhawks flip the switch?

Pressing Playoff Question: Can the Blackhawks flip the switch?


Chicago is headed to the postseason, but it hasn’t played like a Stanley Cup favorite in a while. After a 25-10-2 start to the regular season, the Blackhawks went just 23-18-4 in their final 45 contests. If you expanded that point-per-game pace over an 82-game stretch, then you would be left with a team that finished between the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche. In other words, out of the playoffs.

A big reason for that has been Chicago’s dreadful offense. The Blackhawks ranked 26th in the league with just 2.23 goals per game since the All-Star break and scored just five goals in their final four games — all losses.

Is that cause for concern given what this team is capable of? Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews doesn’t seem to think so.

“We wanted to win the last couple of games; we just didn’t quite get the job done,” Toews said, per ESPN.com. “We’re not going to panic or overreact by any means. I think we’re doing a lot of good things, and the energy and motivation is going to be there at the right time.”

The Blackhawks haven’t absolutely needed that “energy and motivation” Toews is referring to for a while now, but perhaps that will cost them. While Chicago had the luxury of just meandering into the dance, other teams have had to dig and claw their way in. Clubs like Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Calgary have been in playoff mode for a while now, while others like the Ducks and Blues finished the regular season on high notes that they can carry into the playoffs. (Unlike last year for the Blues, when they lost their final six of the regular season then were eliminated in the first round.)

At least it’s starting to look like Patrick Kane might be ready for Game 1. Getting him back will obviously help with their recent offensive woes, although it is worth noting that he last played on Feb. 24 and their struggles date back further than that. He may also not be the Kane of old right away.

Perhaps the best counter-argument to the notion that Chicago has a momentum problem is its opponent: Nashville. If Chicago had to play against the likes of Minnesota, then there would be a direct contrast between a club that limped towards the finish line and one that excelled in the second half of the campaign. The Predators finished the season with a 6-12-3 run though and are on a six-game losing streak. The lifeblood of their team, goalie Pekka Rinne, has posted a pedestrian 2.48 GAA and .911 save percentage since the All-Star break, while none of the Predators’ forwards recorded 25 or more points in their final 37 games.

In that sense, perhaps Nashville is the ideal opponent for Chicago as it aims to switch into playoff mode.

Related: Is everything OK with the Blackhawks?