Nashville Predator goaltender Pekka Rinne got his first taste of the NHL All-Star weekend when he held his own against the best second year players in hockey and led the Rookie team to a 9-5 victory in the Young Stars game in Montreal.
In a three on three non-stop action format reminiscent of a child’s pond hockey game that is set up for offensive numbers, the NHL’s best rookies were matched against last year’s top newcomers as part of the Skills Competition.
Rinne clearly outplayed hometown favorite, Montreal goalie Carey Price, in leading the rookies to the win. He repeatedly stood on his head and blocked and deflected the sophomore shot onslaught. For many in the stands and in the Versus Network audience it was the first time they had seen the talented Predator rookie in action. Rinne was most impressive during the third period when he held the second year players to a single goal.
Rinne started this season as the Predators backup, but with Dan Ellis' struggles in goal he has gotten the bulk of the starts recently. The 6' 5”, 206 pound, Finnish rookie goaltender is having a tremendous season with a 2.33 goals against average, a .916 save percentage, and a record of 10-7-0. He has also had four shutouts this season, ranking him fifth in the league.
The highlight of the skills contest was the Breakaway Challenge, which was judged by fans voting by text messages. Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin stole the show when he had Russian rival Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh dress him in sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat donned with a Canadian flag prior to making a run with two sticks in an impressive stunt. Ovechkin received 42.8% of the total text votes.
Nashville’s Shea Weber competed in the hardest shot contest finishing second to favorite Boston’s Zdeno Chara who set the all-time record with a 105.4 MPH shot.
The NHL All-Star Weekend continues Sunday night when the main All-Star event gets underway at 5:00 CST shown on the Versus Network. Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber of the Predators will play for the Western Conference squad.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald