You are in a foreign place speaking a foreign language.
You are playing an exotic version of your game.
You have been asked to change what got you here and adopt something that has never worked for you.
That was the conundrum facing the Marlies’ Jussi Rynnas
, the reigning Reebok/AHL Player Of The Week.
The 23-year-old Finn is coming off a week where he won all three of his starts and posted 1.05 goals against with a staggering .971 save percentage. For the season, Rynnas has fashioned a 1.95 GAA with a .936 save percentage.
Rynnas’ performance isn’t a statistical feat but rather a triumph of trust. Trust is what you need if you are being asked to do something you’ve never done in a place you’ve never been.
“I just know what (Leafs goalie coach) Francois Allaire says he knows, he knows,” said Rynnas, a reedy six-foot-five goalie. “I just trust him and do what he says.”
Little wonder that Rynnas struggled mightily when he arrived in the AHL. He was quite naturally clinging to a game that worked for him in Finland.
“Jussi is an unbelievable worker in practice,” Eakins said. “He has to keep with what his goaltending coach is telling him, keep up the practice habits and he has to have to have a belief inside that these things will eventually translate into good play and wins. That’s how it is. If you put yourself outside those parameters, you are going to put yourself in a death spiral.”
Trusting his coaches came down to minute adjustments delivered without hesitation.
“If a shot comes from very close, Francois wants me to take it with my shoulder, Rynnas said. “I wanted to use my glove. But if I did that, it was much like a half-save.”
“In Finland, I slid way past the post. Here you have to find it. When you find the post you are at the right place and it’s easy to make the save.”
Rynnas said he occasionally backslides.
"It’s a bit of a mix between what I did before and what I am doing now. There are times in the game where I don’t know what to do but it’s better now. When we train with Francois, I am finding a better way, his way.”
“You have to believe that Francois Allaire is telling him the right things,” said Eakins. “I know Francois is. I told him ‘If you’re thinking of doing something outside the box to change it up, no way. You will have success with some patience.’”