A terrible end to a great year for Pekka Rinne

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Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne put together a terrific Vezina worthy season, but his campaign ended in disappointment in Game 7 against the Winnipeg Jets.

Rinne got the hook at the midway point of the first period after he allowed two incredibly soft goals on seven shots. Head coach Peter Laviolette had seen enough at that point and he decided it was time to go with Juuse Saros.

“I feel very much responsible for our season ending at this point,” Rinne said, per the Tennessean. “Tough to swallow, tough to understand. I can’t point out anything. Felt good, and no injuries and totally healthy. But total ups and downs throughout the playoffs. The biggest moment of the season, it’s a terrible feeling. You let your teammates down, and that’s what happened tonight.”

As cruel as it might be to point the finger at one player, it’s justified in this case. Rinne can’t give up the opening goal to Tyler Myers, he just can’t. Putting his team in a 2-0 hole certainly didn’t get things started on the right foot, either.

It’s a cruel end to a rather stellar season for the 35-year-old netminder, as he accumulated a 42-13-4 record with a 2.31 goals-against-average and a .927 save percentage during the regular season. Those numbers dipped significantly in the playoffs.

Since Game 1 of last year’s Stanley Cup Final against Pittsburgh, he has a 2.99 goals-against-average and a .900 save percentage in 19 postseason contests. But the most surprising thing about Rinne’s disappointing playoff run is how much he struggled at Bridgestone arena:

Things change quickly in the NHL. As good as Rinne was during an 82-game stretch, there’s a chance that his time in Nashville could be coming to an end. That probably won’t happen next season because the veteran is under contract for one more year at $7 million.

Saros is scheduled to become a restricted free agent this summer and he’ll command a raise from the $692,500 he made this season. The Preds will have to make a significant financial commitment to their younger goaltender, which could signal the end of Rinne’s tenure as their starter after the 2018-19 season.

MORE:
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018: Conference Finals schedule, TV info
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Jets top Predators in Game 7, advance to Western Conference Final

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The Winnipeg Jets will play in the conference finals for the first time in franchise history after defeating the Nashville Predators 5-1 in Game 7 Thursday night.

Winnipeg now moves on to face the Vegas Golden Knights for the right to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. Game 1 is Saturday night (7 p.m. ET, NBC) in Winnipeg.

The downfall of the Presidents’ Trophy winning Predators in Game 7 started in the first period when the Jets scored twice in a 126-second span to grab a 2-0 lead to chase Pekka Rinne. It was the third time in the series that head coach Peter Laviolette pulled Rinne.

Winnipeg’s goals weren’t great ones for Rinne to give up. Tyler Myers scored from a bad angle and Paul Stastny put home a rebound in-tight to send the Predators’ starter to the bench in favor of Juuse Saros. Stastny, who was acquired from St. Louis before the NHL trade deadline, now has four goals and eight points in four career Game 7s,

P.K. Subban would cut the lead to 2-1 minutes later, but the Jets were relentless in winning the possession game in the second period and putting pressure on Saros. Their efforts would pay off when Mark Scheifele put home his 10th of the playoffs following a great pass from captain Blake Wheeler. Scheifele scored all seven of his goals in the series on the road.

While numerous leads weren’t safe in the series, the Jets withstood a third-period surge by the Predators and held on for the win. Nashville peppered Connor Hellebuyck with 21 third-period shots, but couldn’t beat him. The Jets netminder would finish with 36 saves.

Home ice was no friend of the Predators in the second round as the Jets won three of the four games held at Bridgestone Arena and outscored Nashville 19-9. Nashville’s only home victory came following double overtime in Game 2.

MORE:
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018: Conference Finals schedule, TV info
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Jets chase Pekka Rinne after 11 minutes in Game 7

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Pekka Rinne‘s Game 7 experience came to an end in the span of 126 seconds in the opening period against the Winnipeg Jets.

The Nashville Predators goaltender was pulled after the Jets built up a 2-0 lead with goals from Tyler Myers and Paul Stastny after 10:47 of play. Following Winnipeg’s second goal, head coach Peter Laviolette had seen enough and pulled Rinne in favor of Juuse Saros.

According to Sportsnet, the hook was the quickest (10:47) in NHL Game 7 history for a starting goalie.

Speaking to NBCSN’s Pierre McGuire, Laviolette said that the goalie change was a mix of saving his timeout and trying to wake his team up. It worked, somewhat as P.K. Subban would cut the lead to 2-1 five minutes after the Stastny goal.

You had to imagine Stastny was going to make an impact. Of the 26 Predators and Jets players with Game 7 experience, only the Jets forward had more than two career points. With two goals and an assist, he now has four goals and eight points in four career Game 7s. He still has a ways to go before he can challenge Justin Williams for the “Mr. Game 7” title.

Rinne has now been pulled four times this postseason and three time in this series against Winnipeg. Not a good look from the likely Vezina Trophy winner.

The Jets would pile it on to win 5-1 to advance to the Western Conference Final.

MORE:
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018: Conference Finals schedule, TV info
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Hellebuyck torments Predators; Jets take Game 1

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Instead of being a back-and-forth goaltending duel, the opening battle of Connor Hellebuyck against Pekka Rinne felt like a country remix of “Hamilton.” The Winnipeg Jets embraced the role of Aaron Burr, beating the Predators 4-1 in Nashville to take a 1-0 series lead.

The Predators probably felt like they were throwing away their shots against Hellebuyck on Friday. A lot of them.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Hellebuyck turned away all 36 shots on goal through the first two lopsided periods, silencing what’s frequently a raucous crowd at Bridgestone Arena. Kevin Fiala eventually got to him, but by then Pekka Rinne was already on the bench for the night. Hellebuyck made 47 out of 48 saves overall. Winnipeg only mustered 19 shots on goal in this win.

As you might expect, some of the more eye-popping stats related to the Predators firing a lot of pucks at Hellebuyck and the American-born goalie stopping almost all of them. The Minnesota Wild likely feel the Predators’ pain, as Hellebuyck’s shutout streak extended to the previous series:

Sure, you could argue that there might be some “quantity over quality” involved, but when the numbers are this lopsided, you take notice (and Rinne looks worse by comparison).

While it’s frustrating – if “extremely playoff hockey” – for the Predators to dominate the shot clock so thoroughly but fall behind 1-0 in the series, it wasn’t all bad news. Nashville looked impressive for several stretches after an up-and-down series against the Colorado Avalanche.

Also, it seems like Ryan Ellis is OK after a scary moment when he took Ben Chiarot‘s skate to his face:

(Note: “OK” in relative hockey terms. His face probably really hurts right now.)

While the Predators feel snakebitten, the Jets’ swagger has to be taking off. Winnipeg is a scary opponent for a plethora of reasons; in the case of Game 1, hockey fans saw evidence that their top-end scorers can turn the tide even when they’re being outplayed.

It’s likely too early to drum up a goalie controversy between Pekka Rinne and his outstanding backup Juuse Saros (who was barely tested as the Jets merely protected their lead in the third period). Still, plenty of people will wonder about Rinne’s confidence, or perhaps the Predators’ confidence in Rinne.

At least, there might be some doubts about Rinne against an opponent of the Jets’ caliber. Simply put, there could be a very small margin of error against a series that arguably pits the two most complete teams in the NHL against each other.

The Predators don’t need to panic just yet, but they need to find answers, whether the questions revolving around beating Hellebuyck in the Jets’ net or maintaining the composure of the guy in their own net.

Game 2 airs at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN on Sunday. Here’s the livestream link.

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.

Rinne doesn’t make it through Game 1 of Jets – Predators

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The Winnipeg Jets – Nashville Predators series boasts a bucket of great potential storylines; that’s what happens when two titans clash in the second round. One of the more fascinating ones involves a battle of two Vezina Trophy finalists in Connor Hellebuyck and Pekka Rinne.

Through the first 40 minutes of Game 1, it was a one-sided battle.

Despite a torrent of shots from the Predators, Hellebuyck kept Nashville off the board for the first two periods of the contest. Rinne wasn’t nearly as lucky, allowing three goals on just 16 shots and seeing his night end early.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

While Mark Scheifele‘s sneaky release tends to befuddle most goalies, the third tally was likely the last straw:

Simply put, Hellebuyck was standing on his head while Rinne wasn’t making those key saves for the Predators. When the third period began, Peter Laviolette decided to give Rinne the hook in favor of Juuse Saros.

Despite a great season and mostly strong work in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Rinne’s had his low moments in the NHL (as, honestly, most goalies not named Henrik Lundqvist tend to suffer if they get to hang around long enough). This seems to just be one of those nights for the Vezina frontrunner.

The Predators broke Hellebuyck’s shutout streak about 90 seconds into the third period to make it 3-1, so there’s some hope for a big comeback. Click here to stream Game 1 live.

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.