Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
The individual standout performances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs have only just begun.
It’s still too soon to tell if the four conference semifinals currently going on will extend quite as long as the majority of the first-round series did, but there have already been a handful of dramatic moments and the potential exists for plenty more as Washington, Philadelphia and Detroit try to work their way back from 2-0 deficits against Tampa Bay, Boston and San Jose, respectively, while Vancouver and Nashville look for ways to light the lamp in a goaltender-dominated series currently tied at a game apiece.
Pekka Rinne, Predators — Like Thomas and Luongo, he’s a Vezina Trophy finalist. Unlike his veteran competition, though, Rinne is getting his first taste of the conference semifinals — and it seems to be agreeing with him. After a so-so first round that saw a rare burst of Nashville goal-scoring bail him out on a couple occasions, Rinne has returned to elite form in helping the Preds steal a game in Vancouver. In fact, he almost stole them both. Rinne stopped 29 of 30 shots in a Game 1 where his team was manhandled at times but lost only 1-0, then made the save of the playoffs on Kevin Bieksa in the first overtime of Game 2 en route to 32 saves and a 2-1 victory.