-- Two games, two goals for each team, two goaltenders who are finalists for the Vezina Trophy.
That's pretty much been the story of the Western Conference semifinal-round series between the Predators and Canucks as it moves to Game 3 here on Tuesday. The series stands at one game apiece with Nashville's Pekka Rinne
and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo
reverting to form in Round 2 after statistics, if not performances, that were uncharacteristic in the first round.
Luongo, who was pulled from his first-round series against Chicago in both Games 4 and 5 and had to take a backup role in Game 6 until Cory Schneider
was injured, has stopped 64 of 66 shots in this series (a .970 save percentage) and has an 0.77 goals-against average. His opposite number in Rinne, whose save percentage was in the .870s after allowing 19 goals to Anaheim in the quarterfinals, has an 0.78 GAA (by virtue of playing 90 seconds less than Luongo, as the Preds have pulled him in both games for an extra attacker). Rinne has stopped 61 of 63 shots for a .968 save percentage.
In the first round, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle
claimed that his staff had found a weakness in Rinne. Canucks coach Alain Vigneault
was asked how his team would solve the 6-foot-5 Finn.
"Well, he's a real good goaltender," Vigneault said. "We've got a real good goaltender. I think you're looking at two teams here -- I know we were the best as far as goals against; I think they were second or third. (Nashville was second.)
"(There) weren't a lot of goals scored by both teams in the regular season (series) because both teams have great goaltending and because both teams can pretty much play very well when they don't have the puck.
"There's not a lot of room. There's not a lot of time out there to make plays. And he's a good goaltender. You got to give him credit. Didn't expect coming into this that these would be high-scoring games, and they haven't been so far."
No, they haven't. Luongo blanked Nashville 1-0 in Game 1 for his third career playoff shutout. He only faced 20 shots in that game and 11 through the first two periods.
Game 2 was a different story. Nashville peppered Luongo with 36 shots through regulation and did not break the ice until 67 seconds remained in regulation.
"There wasn't enough effort there (in Game 1) and we know that to a man," Predators forward Steve Sullivan
said. "We understood that and came out in Game 2 until overtime -- I thought until overtime we had 30-plus shots -- so we were creating our chances. I thought Luongo played extremely well. We didn't score on our opportunities, but we were getting the scoring chances so we were happy with that."
Even though they proved victorious in the first round without stellar statistics, both goalies say they don't pay much attention to numbers.
"You know what? I had maybe two games that were not up-to-par in the first round series, but I think in all the other games I played well," Luongo said. "I don't really look at that stuff. I just look at the way I feel and I'm playing on the ice and not as much of the numbers.
"Right now, I feel the same way I've felt the last five months."
In the first round, Trotz said that despite the number of goals Rinne allowed, he thought his goalie, for the most part, made the big saves at the big times.
"Yeah, a lot of them (goals), though, it's just stats," Rinne said. "Games are always different. You just focus one game at a time. Sometimes you give up a few more goals than you would like, but it's hockey. There's great players and good power plays and they're going to get their chances and score some goals."
Rinne made the save of the game -- possibly even the playoffs -- in overtime when he stopped Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa
's one-timer by leaping across the crease and getting it with his arm, as his back was turned to the play.
Vancouver's Henrik Sedin
was asked if any of Rinne's saves surprised him.
"The one on Bieksa was surprising," he said. "But that's what happens. He throws his stick and glove over there and ‘Juice' hits it. That happens. It's not the first time, it won't be the last time."
Said Luongo: "Obviously, we haven't scored many goals, but we're getting some chances. We've had a few chances where we've had Pekka down and out so we got to bury the chances. He might make the first saves, but if we get him out of position we got to make sure we bear down on those chances and make sure he doesn't get an arm, a leg or a stick on it. Things like that."
With the series having turned into something of a goalies' duel, Luongo said that's fine with him.
"I just play my game and stay focused," he said. "It was a great game. It's a great goalie battle. I'm having fun out there. It's hockey. Stuff's going to happen out there and you try to enjoy it and do the best you can."