ANAHEIM, Calif. – Two days after one of his worst postseason performances, Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne officially was recognized as one of the best in the National Hockey League.
Rinne on Friday was named one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, given annually to the NHL’s top goaltender. Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and Boston’s Tim Thomas were the other two finalists in voting by the league’s 30 general managers.
“He’s been a beast all year,” right wing Joel Ward said. “So we’re excited for him. We’re just glad to see a guy like him can get recognized for something like that. He’s been our MVP all year, and we’re all happy for him.”
Rinne set career-highs in wins (33), goals-against average (2.12) and save percentage (.930) – the last two were franchise records – in 64 appearances. He was second among all goalies in save percentage and third in goals-against average. He started 42 of Nashville’s final 46 games and won 25 over that span.
Four games into the Western Conference quarterfinal series with the Anaheim Ducks, which continues 9 p.m. Friday (Fox Sports-Tennessee), though, he has allowed 14 goals on 100 shots.
He was pulled in Wednesday’s Game 4 defeat after he gave up a Nashville-record six goals on 29 shots.
“It’s not his fault last game,” Predators captain Shea Weber said. “We gave up way too many chances – and good chances. It’s a team effort in here and we kind of left him out to dry last game.”
Rinne is the first Nashville player ever named a finalist for one of the league’s top performance-based awards. In 2009, Steve Sullivan won the 2009 Masterton Trophy, which rewards perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
“It’s very exciting,” Rinne said. “Obviously, I’m very honored and feel pretty fortunate. I can’t say enough about my teammates. They’ve given me a chance to play my best game every single night. I think that’s the reason behind it.
“[Being named a finalist], for sure, makes you feel good and probably builds your confidence a little bit. Hopefully, I’m able to show that [Friday] night.”
Luongo had 38 wins in 60 appearances for the Canucks, who allowed the fewest goals in the regular season. He had a 2.11 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage, both career-highs, and was named a Vezina finalist for the third time (he finished third in 2004 and 2007).
Thomas won his first eight decisions overall and his first nine in road games. A previous Vezina winner (2009), he set a league record with a .938 save percentage and led the NHL with a 2.00 goals-against average.
The winner will be announced June 22 as part of the NHL Awards show from Las Vegas.
“On a nightly basis, [Rinne] has been our MVP,” coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s been outstanding, he’s been consistent. I’m so glad for him because I truly believe he’s … the best goaltender in the National Hockey League.”