By Mark McGee, NashvillePredators.com
The best coaches are also outstanding teachers and Nashville Predators goaltenders coach Mitch Korn truly fits both descriptions.
After the media finishes questioning either Pekka Rinne or Anders Lindback about a game, Korn seats himself beside whichever one of the two goaltenders was between the pipes. With an expression filled with purpose, Korn goes over charts of shots and may even go to video reviews of goals.
He prefers to review a game while it is still fresh in the minds of his two shot blockers. It is especially important to talk with Rinne as soon as possible after a game is complete.
“The premise is to put closure a game, especially with Pekka in season because he plays so much,” Korn said. “We put closure on it and we move forward.
“I would rather put closure on it the night of the game because Peks has the uncanny ability of going to sleep and waking up the next day with a very short memory of the previous game. It is a new day.”
With the Predators returning to home ice at Bridgestone Arena Wednesday night for game three of the Western Conference semi-finals series with the Phoenix Coyotes Rinne’s short memory will come in handy.
“I don’t like to look back,” Korn said. “I want to look forward. Everything that happened in Phoenix is old news.
“Pekka has set a statistical standard. It is perceived as failure of he doesn’t reach that standard and that is not true.”
For the second year in a row Rinne is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy presented to the top goaltender in the NHL. When Korn serves as goaltender coach for the Buffalo Sabres he oversaw Dominik Hasek who earned four Vezina and two Hart trophies.
Korn isn’t adverse to raising his voice when providing direction, but he has never seen a reason to direct a loud verbal outburst at his goaltenders. And it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that Rinne stands 6-foot-5 and Lindback is 6-6.
“I don’t think I have ever raised my voice to those guys,” Korn said. “I don’t yell at pro athletes. At the end of the day brow-beating isn’t going to solve anything. Whether they play well or don’t play well it is not for a lack of effort or a lack of focus so what are you going to yell at?
“At the end of the day, honestly, they are in charge. Pekka is responsible for managing his own game. Lindy is responsible for managing his own game. My job is to help them do that and to lead them on a path using my experience to help them as they gain their experience.”
Both goaltenders appreciate Korn’s coaching demeanor. They don’t have to be yelled at to know when he is upset.
“He wants us to use every practice to our advantage,” Rinne said. “He sees the game so well. He yells at players when they screw up our drills, but he never screams at us. There is a lot of respect going both ways between us goalies and him.
“He is open about things and very honest. He expects us to work hard and nothing less. When there is something to improve or something that needs to be corrected he doesn’t waste time in telling us.”
Rinne is from Finland and Lindback is from Sweden. Both have made adjustments to playing in North America.
“Mitch has been a huge part of my grooming I think,” Lindback said. “He makes Peks and me work hard every day.
“He has really helped me out with a lot of parts of the game. He doesn’t force me to play any certain way but he gets me to try new things. He wants me to develop my game. I feel like I am a better goaltender now than I was a few years ago.”
One of the areas that Lindback has worked on has been his stick handling ability. Korn puts Lindback and Rinne through drills at practice to improve that area of their games.
“It is about small details with him,” Lindback said. “We watch video after very game. He wants us to be mentally tough.
“He has worked with some great goalies. He is good at knowing what we need to do.”
Korn has worked with Rinne to refine his game in goal in a number of ways.
“I was really all over the place when I first came over here,” Rinne said. “I think Mitch has helped me to be patient, but to still be athletic and to use my size. That’s the biggest thing.
“Mentally he has helped me understand what it takes to play a lot of games. As a goalie you have to understand there are always ways to get better. The big thing is to stay humble, keep your mind open and always work hard.”