For the first time in franchise history, the Nashville Predators made the Stanley Cup Playoff semifinals before losing to the Vancouver Canucks. In that series, as he had been during the regular season, goalie Pekka Rinne was their MVP, giving the kind of performances that have earned him a trip to Las Vegas as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
I spoke with Rinne recently about the Predators’ playoff run; facing Ryan Kesler; Rinne’s incredible saves in the postseason; his Vezina nomination; the future of Shea Weber and Alex Radulov in Nashville; Carrie Underwood and Nicole Kidman; the toughest player to defend against in the NHL; as well as what he’s driving, what he’s watching and what he’s drinking. Enjoy!
Q. They say the playoffs breed hate. Do you hate the Anaheim Ducks and the Vancouver Canucks now?
RINNE: I don’t think you could say we now hate either one of them. I think ‘hate’ is a pretty strong word. For sure, you don’t like them when you play against them, you want to beat them. But I wouldn’t say I hate either one of those teams.
What was the mood like inside of the Predators’ locker room after the elimination loss to the Canucks ?
There was a feeling of huge disappointed. I don’t think anyone in the media believed that we could win that series. But unlike the media, we truly believed we could take on those guys and beat them. We thought we had a real chance. And that’s how it was for us. Every game was a one-goal game for most of the time. They were all close. I can honestly say we gave our best. No point of saying what could have been, what would have been. We gave our best.
And after that loss there was a feeling of total emptiness. You play a very long season and then it’s tough to realize that this is it. It’s a pretty empty feeling.
As a player, does the lack of experience playing deep in the playoffs play a part? Or you don’t really think about it?
You get a lot hungrier the further you go in the playoffs. It’s the best part of the season and you just want to keep going stronger. But I think the lack of experience played its part. We are a young team, and we can use any bit of experience we can get. But it’s amazing how small the difference is between teams in the playoffs.
What are your thoughts on your duel with Roberto Luongo? Did you get a chance to talk to him after the series was over?
Not a lot. Just a little bit. I just wished him good luck. He said the same thing. Nothing too special. He played really well, and it was fun for me to play against him. I think it was a good match-up for us against Vancouver.
Who was the most dangerous player to play against on Vancouver?
I think the whole Kesler line was going really well for them, they played really good. So, if I have to pick just one line, it’s definitely the Kesler line. Especially the last three games. I think in a couple of games Kesler was the real difference maker.
Would he be your pick for the Conn Smythe if the Canucks make it all the way?
I think it’s too early to say as the second round just ended. There is still a lot of hockey to be played for the team that will eventually win the Cup. And I am sure it is only going to get harder and harder. But if Kesler keeps going like he has been, I am sure he will be one of the top candidates for the award.
Which one of your team mates surprised you the most?
I think all of our young guys. Guys like Nick Spaling(notes), Matt Halischuk, Blake Geoffrion — they really elevated their game. Cody Franson too. And obviously Joel Ward had a great second round. As did David Legwand. But this is how our team is. Throughout the season we always had someone stepping up. We don’t really have that one line that scores goals. We have to expect all four lines to chip in. We have all our guys working really hard every night and come through the a couple of important goals. I am really, really proud of our young guys.