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Pekka Rinne vs. Corey Crawford

Goalies for Predators, Blackhawks had identical save percentages in regular season

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

Goaltending plays an integral part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so much like many NHL goalie coaches do before a playoff series, charted every goal scored against each goalie this season with the help of Double Blue Sport Analytics. Graphics showing where goals went in and shots were taken are nice but the real value is tracking and analyzing the types of plays that led to them, and whether they reveal strengths, weaknesses and tendencies that can be targeted.


Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks and Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators come into their Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs matchup with identical .918 save percentages. In terms of style and strengths, the similarities end there.


Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Consistency has become an issue for the three-time Vezina Trophy finalist in recent years, including alternating hot and cold months this season. Rinne has attempted to rein in his aggressive philosophy slightly in an attempt to use his 6-foot-5 frame a little more efficiently and reach less with the great hands that defined his career early on. But he doesn't want to lose too much of the active, athletic feel he believes is a key to being at his best.



Go through him: Despite trying to tighten things up a bit technically, Rinne remains a goaltender more likely to reach with his limbs than shifting his body behind shots, and when you can extend and contort those long legs and catch pucks as well as he does it's hard to blame him. The results of that style show up in Rinne's chart in the form of 19 five-hole goals, eight between the glove and the arm and another five under the blocker-side arm. Most goalies give up more under their blocker arm, a function of having to hold the stick and try to keep it flush on the ice, but Rinne's higher total on the glove side is a sign of how active he is with it, trying to scoop pucks off the ice, which prevents rebounds, and even catching across his body.

Video: NSH@MTL: Gallagher slips home wraparound to tie game

Get out of his way: Considering his style is less about filling space and more about reacting to shots, it was alarming to see how consistently his Predators teammates got between Rinne and the release this season. Screens played a role in 47 goals (33 percent) against Rinne this season, and too often it was his own players who were getting in the way; they were trying to play goal themselves but instead created extra layers of traffic that increased the difficulty of scoring chances. Teammates also played a role in a lot of the 37 deflection goals that beat Rinne, which again is hardly ideal for a goalie whose style opens more holes than more conservative goaltenders.

No angle is bad angle: Rinne likes to hold his skates rather than defaulting early to his post-seal techniques, a patient approach that aids mobility moving off the posts but also leaves him more vulnerable to getting caught transitioning his long legs to the ice on low shots from sharp angles and behind the net. He gave up three goals from behind the goal line this season and 25 goals on low-high passes that originated from near or below the goal line, but he was also beaten from bad angles just above the goal line seven times during the final three months of the season.


Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Crawford plays a contained, controlled style mostly between three-quarters and the top of his crease, improving his lateral rotations to establish a nice balance between the strong technical foundation that defined him coming into the NHL and the more aggressive reactionary athleticism he tried too hard at times to show off shortly after becoming a starter.



Glove love: Crawford's high glove numbers have drawn attention ever since his glove-side struggles became a focal point en route to the 2013 Stanley Cup. But the goals scored high to mid-glove have dropped from 44 percent that season to 23 percent this season, and most of those included multiple factors such as screens, deflections, one-timers and lateral plays across the slot line (an imaginary line dividing the zone below the top of the faceoff circles).

Video: NSH@CHI: Crawford uses his glove to snag Fiala's shot

Dead angles: If there is a concern on the glove side recently, it involves shots from sharper angles off the wing. Crawford was beaten short-side high over the glove on a couple of rush shots off the boards late in the season, a trend that seems to be tied to prematurely executing a sharp-angle post-integration technique known as the reverse-VH when the play is still too far away and high in the zone. If the outer hash marks are his trigger for starting this move, don't be surprised if the Predators start firing pucks off the rush from there. It cost him on the blocker side as well, all part of eight bad-angle goals given up in the New Year. Add in the 31 goals Crawford gave up this season on low-high passes from below or near the goal line, and a Feb. 4 game against the Dallas Stars where all three goals were scored from bad angles or wraparounds, and don't be surprised if Nashville tries to create offense down low.

Rebounds but not in tight: Crawford gave up 29 goals on rebounds, which isn't an alarming total by any means, but nine came off clean shots where he was set, square and could see the release. But for all the "crash-the-net" talk we hear during playoffs, it's important to remember Crawford wears pads designed to produce more active rebounds that buy him more time to recover, so looking for loose pucks may be more effective from a little further out.

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