Rinne Silences Blackhawks

Posted at 4:09 PM, Apr 16, 2017

The Blackhawks emphatic use of "Chelsea Dagger" may be the most iconic goal song in the NHL. But through two games of their opening round playoff series the catchy song from the Scottish rock band The Fratellis has been silenced by rangy Finnish goaltender Pekka Rinne of the Predators.

59 Chicago shots, 59 Rinne saves. The 34 year old has looked like vintage Rinne while helping Nashville take the first two games of the series on the road.

Rinne's 29-save performance in game one was the first road playoff shutout in Predators' franchise history, but he may have been even better in game two. His 6'5 frame perfectly positioned between the pipes all night, turning the Hawks away 30 more times including several grade A saves on good scoring chances.

"I've said it before, I think we play defense as a team amazing well," Rinne said after game two. "We box out, so they let me see the puck. Like tonight, I don't think there was one shot I didn't see, so the guys are doing a really good job in front of me."

That's true. The Predators have done a great job in this series of bottling the Blackhawks up in the neutral zone, preventing them from carrying the puck into attacking areas with speed. Even when the Hawks have successfully dumped and chased the puck, the Preds have often pushed them to the outside of the rink into less dangerous areas.

Rinne's also being too humble. Especially in game two, Chicago put several deflected pucks on goal that he was able to turn away. The Hawks also had multiple point-blank chances that Rinne gobbled up.

"First of all, he's lying," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said when told of his goaltender's deflection of the spotlight onto the team's defensive approach. "He made some phenomenal saves."

Rinne's 120:00 streak without allowing a goal is a franchise record for the playoffs. He's also the first goaltender to post back to back shutouts in the playoffs since Michael Leighton did it for the Flyers on the way to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2010.

That team was also coached by Peter Laviolette, so he's seen this type of dominant performance from a goalie before even if the situations aren't so similar.

"Michael was great for us," Laviolette said. "But in that situation he was just coming in (to the lineup) and he carried us. Pekka has been the guy around here for a long time."

And in this series he's looked like the 2010 superstar version of himself.

Laviolette made sure to get his star goaltender extra rest this season during the regular season, hoping to keep him fresh for when the games mattered the most. It looks like it worked.

Over his last 10 games dating back to the regular season, Rinne has a save percentage of .954 and has posted three shutouts including both games in the playoffs.

It's the type of effort from your goaltender that can win you a series, and maybe more.

"He's been huge for us," Predators center Ryan Johansen said. "We're going to need him to keep doing that for us to be successful."