Preds Rely On Rinne, Defense To Grab Series Lead

Posted at 7:53 PM, Apr 14, 2017

Pekka Rinne slept well Thursday night. He earned it. The Predators goaltender stopped all 29 shots he faced from the Blackhawks in a 1-0 game one win. It was the first road playoff shutout in franchise history.

"Any playoff success is special," Rinne said. "A shutout just makes it more so. It was a team accomplishment."

It was a vintage Rinne performance for the 34 year old goaltender, seemingly evidence that the Predators plan to give him more rest during the regular season this year might have helped him save his best for the playoffs.

It was just his second career playoff shutout, and came against the team he made his NHL debut against back in 2005.

That team, by the way, is one of the most explosive offensive teams in hockey. But Thursday Rinne shut them down looking calm and in control throughout.

"Pekks is always one of the best, if not the best in the league," Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "If we're going to make a deep run or even win this series, we need him to be our best player."

Rinne was not without help. The Predators blocked 26 shots in game one, the most by any team in the playoffs so far. It was the type of desperation and sacrifice you have to play with in the playoffs.

"I think desperation is something you have to have every second of every game in the playoffs," All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban said. "The Tide can turn so quickly, but I thought we were very composed especially for a team that doesn't have three Stanley Cups in their back pocket. We have to build off that."

The Nashville defense also did a good hub of muddying up play in the neutral zone in game one and not allowing the Blackhawks free entry into the attacking zone. That resulted in Chicago spending much of it's time playing with the puck around the boards on the perimeter of the ice and not in the more dangerous slot with traffic in front of Rinne.

"I thought all of our defense pairings were terrific," Predators head coach Peter Laviolette said while noting they will need to be even better in game two against a desperate Hawks team.

He's right. The Preds must get better to win this series. But the game one recipe was a good one.

You're not going to simply outscore the Blackhawks. You need to slow them down defensively, and the Predators need Rinne at his best.

Sleep well, Pekka. You're going to need it for a long series.