Rinne lifts Predators' spirits when he rises to the occasion

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 8:58pm

He is Tony Robbins in a mask, a Finnish version of Zig Ziglar on ice.

Pekka Rinne just has a way of making others feel good about themselves and their chances to be successful.

Only the Nashville Predators goalie does not use words. He motivates his teammates with a well-timed save.

Heck, he even provides himself with a little boost when he does so.

“I think you kind of keep it in your mind because it makes you feel good, it makes you feel more confident,” he said. “If you give up a goal, you try to put it behind you right away. But when you make a good save, you kind of let it wander around [in your mind] and let it build up your confidence a little bit.”

Three games into his team’s Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Anaheim Ducks, Rinne has made 71 saves.

Through Monday’s games, 13 different goalies had stopped more shots thus far in the postseason. That includes Anaheim’s Ray Emery (77 saves), who was not even in net for the first two-plus periods of the series opener last Wednesday.

Rinne’s save percentage is .887, which ranked 15th in the playoffs (through Monday) and was well off his regular-season rate of .930.

Two of those 71 saves, though, have had a profound effect on him, his teammates and the series. With roughly nine minutes to go in the opener, he made a toe save against Teemu Selanne that protected a 1-0 Nashville lead. In Game 3, he stopped Cam Fowler early in the third period after the Ducks had tied it with a pair of goals (both by Selanne) in the closing minutes of the second.

“He hasn’t had the big impact but he’s made the crucial saves,” coach Barry Trotz said. “… If he doesn’t make that save [against Fowler], it’s probably a different game. That’s what Pekka does. When Pekka makes the save, he gives everybody a lift.”

Following the save on Selanne, it was nearly four minutes before the Ducks got another shot on net. In between, Jerred Smithson and Shane O’Brien each blocked one before it ever got to Rinne.

After the stop on Fowler, it took a little more than four minutes before the Predators scored and regained the lead.

Fowler’s was one of only 16 shots that Rinne faced in all of Game 3, which helps explain his low save total. In fact, Nashville has held Anaheim to six or fewer shots in four straight periods.

“I thought [Sunday] night’s game was the toughest game he’s had to play all year,” Trotz said. “The reason being — every goalie will tell you — when you don’t get a lot of work and you don’t see a lot of rubber it becomes very, very difficult to stay focused and track the puck and all those things. Plus, they got a couple sort of funny-type goals.”

No, Rinne has not stopped every shot, but he has had some memorable saves — or at least ones he wanted to remember for a little bit.

“It’s always an adrenaline rush,” Rinne said. “You get pumped up and it feels good for a bit.”

He’s not the only one who feels that way.