This is not the start that the Nashville Predators wanted in the critical Game 7 of their second round series against the Winnipeg Jets in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Jets raced out to an early lead less than midway through the very first period but it wasn't off the back of some highlight reel kind of play, instead it was the result of some very shaky goialtending courtesy of Predators star goalie Pekka Rinne.
The first goal from the Winnipeg Jets was of the unforgivable variety, it looked like Tyler Myers had absolutely no chance of scoring as he was standing at a rather impossible angle, but Rinne failed to properly close the gap between himself and the goal post and somehow the puck found it's way into the back of the net. It was such a bad goal that for a few seconds after the puck went into the net you could tell that no one on the ice had really realized what had just happened. Unfortunately for Rinne that was just the start of his problems.
Just a few short shifts later the Winnipeg Jets doubled their lead, again to be fair to Rinne it was clear that the Jets were outworking the Predators in every aspect of the game at this point. However in a Game 7 situation you need your goalie to come up big for you and while Connor Hellebuyck had managed to shut down an early onslaught from the Predators, Rinne was unable to do the same.
The goal was recorded by Jets veteran forward Paul Stasny and it came off the heels of a rebound that Rinne had seemingly lost track of, another sign that the Predators star was not on top of his game on Thursday night. This wasn't some epic save that led to a big juicy rebound either, Rinne looked lost between the pipes and fought off the first shot, another weak shot, and was completely fooled when the second shot came in. Definitely not the level of play you expect from a goaltender the caliber of Rinne. It's obviously speculation on my part but I genuinely believe Rinne was rattled by the moment.
It was more than enough for Predators head coach Peter Laviolette who had made a decision earlier in this series to allow Rinne to remain as the starter despite a number of shaky performances against the Jets. It was Laviolette who pulled Rinne out of the game tonight however and he did so with barely 10 minutes gone on the game clock. It will likely go down as one of the worst moments of Pekka Rinne's National Hockey League career.
The Predators immediately sent in backup goaltender Juuse Saros to replace Rinne, a move that many felt should have been made earlier on in this series, and that seemingly will mark the end of the night for Pekka Rinne. It will also mark the end of his season should his teammates be unable to mount the heroic comeback that will be required to win this game.