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Jake Allen vs. Pekka Rinne

Goalies for Blues, Predators enter second round playing at elite level

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent

Goaltending plays an integral part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so much like many NHL goalie coaches do before a playoff series, NHL.com charted every goal scored against each goalie this season with the help of Double Blue Sports 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.

Jake Allen of the St. Louis Blues and Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators begin the Western Conference Second Round on top of their respective games.

For Allen, it's a continuation of his play since the Blues changed coaches and defensive systems Feb. 1, finishing his season with a .938 save percentage after Mike Yeo replaced Ken Hitchcock. For Rinne, it's a continuation of a sizzling March and the end of a trend of alternating hot-and-cold months.

The goalie that maintains his strong play the longest is most likely to see his team advance.

 

[RELATED: Complete Blues-Predators series coverage]

 

Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues

Allen's strengths include patiently shifting into shots from his skates and impressive lateral mobility once he's down in the butterfly. Before the coaching change, which coincided with assistant general manager Martin Brodeur taking over as a goalie coach, Allen wasn't always square, getting caught off his angle on rushes and drifting backward on points shots. Since fixing those tendencies he's been one of the best in the NHL, including a .956 save percentage in five games against the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs.

 

GOAL TRENDS

Can't give him any time: Of the 25 goals along the ice on either side, which often are tap-ins, seven came after Yeo took over and changed the Blues' defensive system. Against the Wild it was easy to understand why. Though the Blues surrendered some great looks, especially early, they didn't give up a lot of uncontested shots, and Allen's exceptional edge work and movement from his knees means he doesn't need much extra time to get across the crease, almost always staying upright, balanced and square, even on the toughest chances.

Video: STL@MIN, Gm5: Allen stones Zucker with quick glove

Rebounds off the rush: Allen was getting caught flat, or parallel to the goal line, instead of squaring up on rush chances down the wing before working with Brodeur to rotate as these plays moved deeper in the zone. The old habit contributed to 18 against the grain, or cross-body far-side goals, but he easily handled high attempts by the Wild. A better bet now may be throwing shots off his far pad, with rebounds more likely to go back into the slot because of his new angle, or create lateral plays off these attacks, which almost led to an Eric Staal wraparound goal in Game 3 because Allen has a bigger rotation to make before pushing back across.

Glove love: Allen also switched his glove model around the same time the Blues changed coaches, moving to a deeper double-T pocket with skate laces that help take the spin off shots and retain pucks. Not that Allen's glove was a problem; of the 41 mid to high glove-side goals in the regular season, 34 involved a combination of screens (16), one-timers (nine), deflections (13) and lateral plays. Wild forward Charlie Coyle found out on a Game 1 rebound chance that Allen's glove is just fine. As he showed while getting across compact and in control to take Coyle's chance away, the high totals around the edges are a sign it takes a great shot to score because he isn't going to open a lot of holes.

Sightlines key: The old adage about taking the eyes away from a hot goalie ring true. After the Blues' coaching change, 37 percent of the goals against Allen involved a screen, well above the 23.3-percent average of the 2,100-plus goals tracked. The Wild scored twice in five playoff games with screens. 

 

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

No goalie was better in the first round than Rinne. In addition to a .976 save percentage that topped all playoff starters and included one goal-against at even strength, Rinne had two assists during a sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks. Consistency has been an issue during recent seasons, but Rinne has tried to steady his game by reigning in some of his aggressive tendencies and using his 6-foot-5 frame a little more efficiently.

 

GOAL TRENDS

Quick plays, bad angles: Post play on sharp-angle shots led to one of three Chicago goals and created a couple dangerous scrambles. Rinne stays on his skates longer than many, which can leave him vulnerable to getting caught in transition on quick plays and pass outs. He gave up three goals behind the goal line during the regular season, 25 on low-high passes from near the goal line, and was beaten from bad angles seven times during the final three months of the season.

Dump it in high: Rinne's improved puck handling isn't just about aiding Nashville's offense. He's made a conscious effort to be more active as a way to stay engaged when he isn't as busy making saves. That includes going behind the net to try and corral dump-ins even when they are up on the glass, a no-no for most goalies because of the increased risk of bad bounces that end up in front of an empty net. It almost cost Rinne a shorthanded goal in Game 3 when a shot from the Chicago end ricocheted off the glass and forced him to make a diving stick save.

Catch him moving in tight: Rinne's more conservative approach helped reduce goals under his arms but he remains active side to side on plays down low. Though those explosive movements mean he's rarely out of a play, it also can open holes in his big frame. It contributed to 19 five-hole goals this season and increases the importance of quick shots, which accounted for 34 percent of his goals this season, especially during scrambles. It also helps explain a .779 save percentage on high-danger shots, according to Corsica.hockey, that was among the lowest for starters during the regular season before jumping to .900 in the first round.

Video: CHI@NSH, Gm4: Rinne turns away Panarin's long wrister

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