The case for benching Pekka Rinne (Trending Topics)

The stat that stands out, obviously, is giving up eight goals on 36 shots in 102:16.

Before that, it took Pekka Rinne 249 minutes and 131 shots to give up eight goals. Which is why the Nashville Predators walked over Anaheim in the Western Conference Final. And Rinne’s struggles are also why they are now down 0-2 in a Stanley Cup Final in which they should at least be tied.

I said in the Countdown earlier this week that I wasn’t ready to say Rinne had turned back into a pumpkin because of a bad Game 1. He is very much a pumpkin now, whether you want to call it just a two-game blip or anything else. You can’t be this bad for two Cup Final games in a row and expect anyone to be sympathetic to what could be a brief slump. At this time of year, brief slumps are deadly.

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And that’s especially true because the team in front of him has made his job incredibly easy in these two road games, only for him to unnecessarily complicate things and put them in a huge hole.

One need only look at the raw the numbers to see the myriad problems Rinne has caused. Even if you adjust for score and venue, the Predators have attempted nearly 60 percent of all 5-on-5 shots in the series, and more than that in actually getting shots on goal. Nashville also controlled 64-plus percent of the scoring chances and almost 69 percent of the high-danger chances.

And yet they have conceded nine goals, eight of which are on Rinne’s account, while scoring just four themselves. It’s staggering how badly things have gone.

The Rinne issue would be bad even if the goalie at the other end weren’t playing ridiculously well. But Matt Murray has been excellent. And so now the Predators face a situation in which they need to make up what has been a one-hundred-sixty point difference in save percentage between the two series’ starters. That number again: Pittsburgh’s save percentage is plus-.160 relative to Nashville. Inexplicable.

Well, it’s not “inexplicable” inexplicable.

You watch the games, you see where things go wrong. In the first game you could explain away the majority of the goals he allowed, if you were inclined to do so. Not so much in the second. And regardless of whether you want to forgive his Game 1 performance, that first Jake Guentzel goal put all those thoughts to bed.

So too did Guentzel’s second, which was the kind of rebound you would have thought goalies would have stopped allowing in about 1991. However, to some extent so too was the third Pittsburgh goal, which went in off a defender who happened to be in roughly the same spot. Makes you wonder if the Penguins coaches saw something in how Rinne dealt with low angle shots from the right wing. It could also be a coincidence, but given how blatant the shot for the outside pad was on the Game 2 goal like this, I’m not so sure.

The third goal in Game 2 was also a bounce-in off a defender, and the fourth was just an unstoppable Evgeni Malkin shot.

(No coincidence, I’m sure, that it’s Roman Josi getting exposed. His defensive deficiencies have been fairly well-known dating back to his days with Shea Weber, because both were inclined to accede the blue line to attackers in hopes of turning the puck over closer to the net with hits in Weber’s case and stickwork in Josi’s. Of the seven 5-on-5 goals Nashville allowed in the series so far, Josi has been on the ice for four. That, too, probably isn’t a coincidence.)

In the end, you can see where the Predators’ potential deficiency in net — Rinne was the reason I think a lot of people picked Chicago to beat Nashville in the first round — is finally being exploited.

If you want to say the Penguins have figured Rinne out, I don’t know if that’s fair. But he’s certainly lending plenty of help to the back-to-back Cups cause.

Here you can see, Matt Murray is likewise struggling on high-danger shots, though not nearly to the same extent. Moreover, Rinne’s also having trouble with middle-distance shots and has also been beat by two shots a little more from the outside (though not by much). This is very much seems to be a PDO thing first and foremost. It’s not like the Penguins are doing much to manufacture these goals themselves.

But anyway the blame-placing isn’t really helpful at this point. There’s no time, at this point, to let Rinne work through whatever issues he’s having, despite the fact that there was a case to be made here after Game 1. What a difference a day makes and all that, but one bad night is excusable, while two are not.

Could the Predators help Rinne out in attack? Sure. They almost did it in Game 1. But I’m not sure you can ask a team to do more than they have, getting a huge chunk of their shots on goal at least from decent scoring areas. Murray has just been equal to the task. Call it fresh legs. Say it’s because he’s just a really good goalie who did this same stuff last year.

It’s no great revelation to say Rinne’s been bad, and the “why” of it is immaterial. Peter Laviolette is currently playing coy with who’s going to start Game 3 — and hell, PK Subban already guaranteed a ‘W’ — but if you were one of those people waiting for the floor to drop out from underneath Rinne, well, you’re welcome.

It’s a short series, but Juuse Saros has to be the guy going forward. Rinne was so far below replacement-level in these first two games that he forgot what being replacement-level feels like (and for the record, it should feel a lot like Rinne’s 2015-16 season).

Any attempt to justify a Rinne appearance in Game 3 should come with the caveat, “If Saros is torn apart by a pack of feral dogs before the game…”

Rinne had his incredible playoff run and is a huge part of the reason the Preds got to the Cup Final. He’s also basically the only reason they’re in an 0-2 hole. He’s not likely to dig himself out. And you can’t give him the chance.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

All stats via Corsica unless otherwise stated.

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