So far, Pekka Rinne‘s been about as far from a liability as a goalie can be … and the Chicago Blackhawks suddenly look like the underdogs against the Nashville Predators.
After nullifying the Blackhawks in a 1-0 win in Game 1, the Predators left no doubt with a 5-0 Game 2 victory, taking a 2-0 series lead.
While Viktor Arvidsson has been leading the charge alongside some even less likely heroes for the Preds, there’s no doubt that Rinne has been the story so far. Rinne shut out Blackhawks in both games in Chicago, making for some pretty wild stats (beyond stopping all 59 shots on goal so far in this series).
This Blackhawks squad is no stranger to digging deep, but they’ll need all of that gutsy play and experience as they try to fight back with Games 3 and 4 in Nashville. If you want an idea of how unusual this is, consider the fact that the boos were hailing down at the United Center tonight.
Ugly at the United Center
Fair or not, Rinne’s excellent work brought up at least some questions about where Corey Crawford‘s game is at.
There are also some questions about the handful of young players struggling during this trying moment after Joel Quenneville managed to get the best out of them during the regular season. Ryan Hartman struggled mightily during the game and then delivered a dangerous cross-check to Craig Smith in the closing minutes, possibly earning a look from the Department of Player Safety.
Chicago didn’t show panic after losing Game 1, and they’ll likely say all the right things after this loss. They’ve also earned the benefit of the doubt – if not infinite patience from their fans – considering past successes.
Even so, it’s rare to see this borderline dynasty on the ropes like this, especially this early in a postseason.
Then again, few goalies have enjoyed starts as hot as what Rinne is providing for Nashville.