With Game 1 versus the Predators still two days away, we here at the SCH offices are going to give you a breakdown of the different facets of Nashville's game. Though we were intimately acquainted with it in the first part of the year, it's been since December that the Hawks have seen them, so I think everyone could use a quick cram session (if you'll pardon the expression). Tonight we'll start with the goaltenders, and work our way out from the net in the next few posts.
#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Nov 03, 1982
|2009 - Pekka Rinne||58||3246||32||16||137||2.53||1541||1404||.911||7|
Pekka Rinne: The gangly Finn is Nashville's #1 goalie, having played 58 games during the regular season, starting 54 in his second full year as the main man in net. Rinne's numbers are middling, but his 7 shutouts are not to be taken lightly, with four of them coming since the Olympic break. This will be his first shot in the post season as well, so it will be interesting to see how he performs. As was just mentioned, he has four shutouts since the break, but overall, his performances have been back and forth, and doesn't come into the series riding anything that could be considered a hot streak. As I delved into on the podcast (which everyone should be listening to by now, dammit), Rinne is a very big for a goalie. He's listed 6'5", 206 lbs so he takes away a ton of the net. At that height, he plays more of a stand-up style than a true butterfly, so it will be important that the Hawks shoot low and look for rebounds (we're all looking at you, Mullet Boy). It's also imperative that the Hawks get bodies to the net because Rinne will have an easier time than most seeing around screens, but when he does see the puck, he'll come out and challenge shooters with his large frame, taking away much of the net to shoot at. If the Hawks crash the net like someone told them there's Lincoln Park poonanner behind Rinne, it will make it more difficult for him to come out that far and get the favorable angles. Again, due to his size, he also covers a lot of ice laterally, so again, bodies to the net. Also, like most Euro goalies, he's not exactly Marty Brodeur or Marty Turco handling the puck behind his net. So if the Hawks are forechecking aggressively (assuming they've gotten through the neutral zone qucksand), Rinne could be forced into some ill-advised decisions. Rinne was 1-2 against the Hawks this year, allowing 3,0, and 4 goals in those games. Guess which one he won? And guess where it was played? All in all, he's definitely a solid netminder, but there's not enough track record to suggest he's capable of stealing a series, particularly against a team that led the league in shots per game at just a pube north of 34 a contest.
#39 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Jun 19, 1980
|2009 - Dan Ellis||31||1715||15||13||77||2.69||848||771||.909||1|
Dan Ellis: Dan Ellis has been Rinne's primary backup for two seasons now, and his stats are commendable for the role he plays. Ellis is far smaller in stature than the mountainous Rinne, so his game is a little more agility-based, but that leads him to sometimes over-committing, and that's led to the inconsistency that's kept him from fully grabbing a starting job. Ellis was also 1-2 against our Men of Four Feathers, allowing 2, 1, and 5 goals in those contests. If the Hawks see Ellis this series, it will be because Barry Trotz is sick of hearing DLR making Tarzan noises over the top of Alex Van Halen's jungle drum cadence.
Nashville comes in with essentially the same questions in net that the Hawks have, as well as the inexperience, and much like the Hawks, it will be a priority of the skaters to limit how much their playoff virgin Finnish netminders are exposed to quality chances.
Coming tomorrow (or possibly later tonight), we'll tackle Nashville's corps of defensemen led by Olympians Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.