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Study habits make Rinne big-time shootout stopper

by Mike G. Morreale
PHILADELPHIA -- Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne is a big fan of the shootout.
Actually, there's a perfectly good explanation why one of the more tense moments for any goaltender happens to put Rinne in a comfort zone.
"First off, he's tremendously skilled and a lot of it has to do with athleticism and quickness," Predators goalie coach Mitch Korn told "But most importantly, Pekka has become very fake-resistant."
Korn, who studies video on player tendencies with Rinne and backup Anders Lindback prior to each game, went on to explain his assessment.
"You know how certain flu and diseases become drug-resistant? Well, if you watch a lot of goalies, they have become very fake-resistant … they don't bite like they used to," Korn said. "Yet, the players are becoming even more creative, so it's a battle out there."
Despite it being a battle, Rinne loves it because it's an opportunity for him to become a difference-maker.
"I'm not at all nervous," Rinne said. "I think you want to be the difference-maker and that's kind of what shootouts are all about. It's goalie against player, so you can have a big impact on shootouts and that's why I enjoy it. It's no pressure for me, I welcome the challenge."
Since the implementation of the tiebreaker in 2005-06, Rinne has produced a 17-8 record, and his .788 save percentage is fourth all-time. Proper planning and video review have been big reasons for his success.
"I try to kind of look for tendencies, but guys are so skilled that you can't cheat, they'll read that and find the open net," he said. "It's just trying to find what kind of speed they come at you, if they're coming fast, slow, or do they have a tendency to shoot the puck or deke. I try not to over-think those things. I think you're at your best when you just read and react and trust your instincts."
Korn agrees.
"A lot of guys have certain tendencies, so when you look at a number of chances over time, you see those tendencies," he said. "Our goalies must recognize that there aren't certainties. They can't just lock in or totally expect one particular move. I've always said knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have, you hope you have a little power or edge over somebody else."
Rinne had stopped 11 consecutive shooters prior to giving up one to Rene Bourque in the opening round of a 3-2 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday. He's stopped 78 of 99 shootout attempts -- not too shabby for a player drafted in the eighth round (No. 258) of the 2004 Entry Draft.
"I usually watch the film before every single game, and usually they'll have some 3-4 players they use during the shootouts," Rinne said. "You can see some moves they've been using and the goals they are scoring. It helps."
This season, Rinne is 6-3 in shootouts with an impressive .833 save percentage (25 of 30), including 4-0 on the road after stopping 11 of 13 shooters. In 2009-10, he was one of only six goaltenders to face at least 15 shootout attempts and record a .750-or-better save percentage.
There's one other reason Rinne may appear to be more relaxed during shootouts -- it means teammate Shea Weber isn't blasting shots at him in practice.

Weber, who fired a shot clocked at 104.8 miles per hour during the XM NHL Hardest Shot competition during All-Star Weekend in Raleigh, N.C., finished second to Boston's Zdeno Chara.
"It's like another day at the office," Rinne said. "He has such a hard shot, but he's also a responsible guy. He knows he has a bomb, but he kind of picks his spot going full speed. It's good to go head-to-head against him, though."
"If you can stop that thing, you can stop anything," Lindback said, laughing.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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