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The Official Site of the Nashville Predators Predators relish Rinne's impressive glove work

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne was trending on Twitter in Canada on Thursday after Nashville locked up its Vezina Trophy finalist to a seven-year, $49 million contract. But if there was anyone still wondering what made the Predators' puck stopper worth such a commitment, they should look back at trends from last spring's playoffs.

Among the most entertaining hashtags on Twitter was #ThingsinRinnesGlove.

The list of responses included everything from "Jimmy Hoffa" to "Charlie Sheen's dignity." But as Rinne celebrated his 29th birthday with a contract extension almost six months later, nobody was making jokes involving his glove hand.

Outside of being blessed with an athletic 6-foot-5 frame that allows him to move more like a goalie who is 5-foot-10, it's the biggest reason for his success. It's the most active in the NHL, and what separates him from so many peers -- maybe because few played Finnish baseball.

"It's a little different than American baseball," Rinne tried to explain during the playoffs, pointing to a smaller field and zig-zag base running across it, including starting down what would be the third base line in America.

"You almost have to see it," Rinne said, adding the main components -- hitting, throwing and catching -- are similar. "It improves hand-eye coordination."

All of which helps explain how Rinne developed such a good glove hand. That he's kept it is a credit to the coaching in his native Finland, where goalies are encouraged to keep their hands forward and active, rather than tucking them tightly onto their hips in more of a blocking style. It's also a credit to long-time goalie coach Mitch Korn, who did not try to take away Rinne's propensity to catch more pucks than his peers, sometimes in awkward-looking positions.

"That's just the way I learned to play," Rinne said of the active glove. "I was taught to just try to prevent as many rebounds as I can and use my hands."

Those rebounds are the most important of all the #ThingsinRinnesGlove.

And they can come from anywhere. In addition to traditional attempts to pick the corner on his glove side, Rinne doesn't hesitate to catch pucks in front of his body (instead of using the more common gut trap). He sometimes reaches across to pick them off backhand style on his blocker side, and will even scoop low shots along the ice in front of his pads rather than kicking those pucks out.

The defensemen in Nashville love seeing their goalie imitate Derek Jeter.

"He eliminates a lot of second chances himself by smothering pucks with his glove and he's so good at catching and scooping pucks off the ice," captain Shea Weber said during the playoffs. "I'd never seen it before until I started paying with him, first in Milwaukee (in the American Hockey League). He would scoop those pucks right off the ice if you were shooting for his far side pad. It's an unbelievable skill, because without a doubt that's a rebound on any other goalie that could possible come out for a second chance or another shot."

Jonathon Blum figures Rinne's glove prevents as many as six-to-12 scoring chances a game.

"You come down the wing, and if you don't have a play you are taught to shoot off those pads for a big rebound in the slot that really causes chaos in front of the net and more time in the zone and more scoring chances," the Predators defenseman said. "But Pekka gets down low and uses that glove, sometimes right across his body and it helps us out. Most goalies are really structured in what they do with their goalie coaches, but Peks is just a terrific natural athlete and he can make those plays and he's comfortable with it."

Some coaches might not be. Some European goaltenders have their active gloves coached out of them once they come overseas. But Rinne, who can sometimes get caught opening up a hole in his big frame by reaching, couldn't imagine playing any other way.

"I know there are some coaches that want you to play a little bit different, but that's the way I have been playing my whole life," Rinne said.

The Predators are happy to have him doing it for them the next seven years.

Author: Kevin Woodley | Correspondent

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