Three games into their first-round series, the Blackhawks have the book on Pekka Rinne. And they seem to be enjoying it.
“In a series, the further you go along, the more you get to know players,” Brandon Saad said. “Getting to the net’s a big key, and banging in rebounds. He’s a great goaltender.”
Rinne is, without a doubt. But he hasn’t been during this series. Through three games, he’s allowed 10 goals, and has a dismal .891 save percentage. The Hawks have beaten him with and without traffic in front, on slappers and wristers, up high and down low, from close range and from long range.
On Sunday, Rinne was flailing at pucks, losing control of rebounds and looking vulnerable through the five-hole. If not for a premature whistle, he would have given up a fifth goal early in the third, when Jonathan Toews’ shot trickled through Rinne’s legs and across the goal line.
The Hawks have had the most success against Rinne when throwing bodies in front of him, of course.
“He’s a world-class goalie and you have to have traffic in front of him,” Hossa said. “[Toews] picked a good corner, but there was traffic in front of him. [Duncan Keith’s] overtime winning goal [in Game 1], there was traffic in front of him. I think that definitely helps.”
Of course, just like Corey Crawford wasn’t solely to blame for his struggles, Rinne didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates on Sunday. Defenseman Roman Josi lamented how the Predators allowed the Hawks to keep “walking into the zone.” And Nashville clearly was missing star defenseman Shea Weber (out for at least two games with a leg injury suffered in Game 2) and shutdown center Mike Fisher (day to day).
Weber’s absence, which could last all series, looms especially large.
“You’re facing the best defenseman in the league, and all of a sudden when he’s not there, you have to take advantage of it,” Marian Hossa said. “I think that’s what we did.”