That sure wasn’t a good start to the Stanley Cup finals for Nashville Predators’ star goaltender Pekka Rinne.
After a standout regular season and an amazing first three rounds of the NHL playoffs, Rinne laid an egg in Pittsburgh Monday night, surrendering four goals on just 11 shots as Pittsburgh beat Nashville 5-3 in game 1.
In a game where the Penguins were outshot 26-12 — including 10-0 in the second period and a stretch of 37 minutes without a shot — and outplayed much of the game, Rinne couldn’t help his team out.
Pittsburgh scored three times on five shots in a span of 4:11 in the first, including a one-handed effort by Nick Bonino that bounced in off Preds’ unfortunate defenceman Mattias Ekholm.
The Preds fought back to tie it 3-3, but after that long stretch of no shots on goal, Jake Guentzel fired the eventual winner with just 3:17 to go.
Not a great start for Rinne, who was 12-4 with just 28 goals against and two shutouts prior to Monday’s game.
We don’t believe he’ll be among a slew of star players (well, one never can tell) who have underwhelmed in the Stanley Cup finals over the years.
Here are 15 who just didn’t get it done when the chips were down.
15. Joe Pavelski – 2016
For the first time in team history, the San Jose Sharks roared into the 2016 Stanley Cup finals. They knocked off arch nemesis Los Angeles in five games in the first round, then dispatched a scrappy Nashville team in seven in the second round. Finally, they needed just six games to get past St. Louis in the Western Conference finals. Team captain Joe Pavelski went into the finals against Pittsburgh leading all scorers with 13 goals in the first 18 games of the playoffs. In comparison, the veteran centerman had fired 26 goals in his first 81 post-season contests. With everything on the line, Pavelski could only manage one measly goal in six games against the Pens and logging at team worst -4. And that marker was an empty-netter in game 5 as the Sharks staved off elimination by winning 4-2, only to fall 3-1 a game later to the champion Penguins.
14. Dany Heatley – 2007
Like the San Jose Sharks in 2016, the new Ottawa Senators were making their first appearance in a Stanley Cup final after (re) joining the NHL in 1992. Leading the offensive charge for the upstart Sens against the favorite Anaheim Ducks was Dany Heatley, fresh off a second consecutive 50-goal season and a league leading six goals and 15 assists through the first three rounds (15 games). With his size down the wing and wicked shot, he was expected to be a handful for a veteran, but aging, Ducks defensive corps that included Scott Niedermayer (then 33) and Chris Pronger (32). However, Heatley all but disappeared in the five-game series (won 4-1 by Anaheim), scoring just once, with no assists and a -3 rating.
13. Olaf Kolzig – 1998
In their fairly lengthy history, and despite having some very good teams (hello, Alex Ovechkin et al!), the Washington Capitals have made it to the Stanley Cup finals just once. That year was 1998 and the player that took them there was German netminder Olaf Kolzig. Olie the Goalie had a breakout season in 1997-98, playing in then a career high 64 games, recording a career low 2.20 goals against average and career high .920 save percentage to go along with five shutouts. In the playoffs, Kolzig went 12-5 during the Caps’ run through the Eastern Conference playoffs, stopping 546 of 577 shots (an average of 34 per game), with a playoff leading four shutouts and .946 save percentage. The finals, though, were not to be his finest hour against the powerful Detroit Red Wings as he failed to make the big stops in a four-game sweep. He allowed 13 goals in four games to the champion Winged Wheels, which lowered his league leading save percentage to .941.
12. Bobby Holik – 2001
Bobby Holik was the kind of two-way player that typified the battle-hardened and successful New Jersey Devils’ teams of the 1990s and into the new century. Not overly flashy, the big centerman could be counted on to win key face-offs and score 20-plus goals (which he did nine times in his career) and 50-plus points (six times) a season. Holik was true to form in two Stanley Cup victories for the Devils, scoring eight points in 20 games in 1995 and then 10 points in 23 games during the 2000 Cup run. In 2000-2001, the defensively adept Holik recorded 50 points in 80 games during his 11th season, the went on a relative tear in the playoffs, scoring a career high six goals and eight assists and a +7 in 18 games through the first three rounds. Facing the hated Colorado Avalanche in the finals, this should have been where Holik would up his game. However, Holik managed just two assists and a very uncharacteristic -6 in the thrilling seven-game series, won 4-3 by the Avs. Ouch.
11. Mike Richards And Jeff Carter – 2010
We are “awarding” a tie to Richards and Carter for worst performance in a Stanley Cup final, due mainly to stories swirling around the two young stars at the time. It was speculated — and would later factor into surprising trades — that the two young and gifted players liked the nightlife a little too much, even during playoffs. Richards was a key cog in the Flyers first run to the finals in 13 years, scoring six goals and 15 assists in through Philadelphia’s first 17 games, including a massive comeback from a 3-0 hole to Boston in the second round. Richards had nine points as Philly became one of few teams to erase a 3-0 lead in the NHL playoffs. Carter, who scored 33 goals in the regular season, missed 11 of the first 17 playoff games to injury, but entered the finals with four goals and an assist in six games. The Flyers were a huge underdog entering play against Chicago in the finals and unfortunately for them, Richards and Carter came up really, really small as the Flyers fell in six. Richards had just a goal and an assist and was a putrid -7, while Carter had the same stats and a -6.
10. Rick Nash – 2014
From the time he entered the NHL as the no. 1 overall pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2002, Rick Nash has been considered a pure goal-scorer. A big body who regularly scores more goals than assists attracted the attention of the New York Rangers in 2012 as the Blue Jackets were looking to shed salary. A trade was consummated and Nash, who had all of four games of playoff experience in nine seasons with Columbus, was looked upon as a key contributor for a contending Rangers squad. In 2014, a very balanced Blueshirts team, backstopped by all-world goalie Henrik Lundqvist, blew into the finals by knocking off Philadelphia in the first round (4-3), then Pittsburgh (again 4-3) and finally Montreal 4-2 in the Eastern Conference finals. Nash wasn’t great in the first two rounds, managing five assists (no goals) against Philly and Pittsburgh. He came alive, though, against Montreal, firing three goals and two assists in six games to set pundits’ tongues wagging entering the finals against L.A. But, Nash went stone cold, scoring no goals on a team high 18 shots in the five-game loss to the Kings, along with a -3.
9. Evgeni Malkin – 2008
Geno has been better than a point per game, career, in the playoffs, registering 154 points in 144 games to date. The big Russian has 25 points in 20 games this season as the Penguins look to make it back-to-back championships. Malkin, however, has bombed very badly in a playoff series when his team needed him most. In 2008, Malkin was coming off a superb sophomore season where he tallied 47 goals and 59 assists in 109 games. In the first three rounds, the young playmaker notched nine goals and 10 assists as the Penguins breezed by Ottawa (4-0), New York (4-1) and Philadelphia (4-1). Three of his nine markers were game winners and he had five powerplay goals and one shorty. Stacked up against the deep and veteran Detroit Red Wings in the finals, Malkin and the Pens failed to solve Chris Osgood in back-to-back Wings shutouts in game 1 and 2. That would be recurring them for Malkin, however, as he would register a goal (in the pivotal game 6 loss) and two assists in those six games, along with being -2.
8. Roberto Luongo – 2011
Many players are loathe to pin key losses on their netminder, but we think there must have been a lot of grumbling from Vancouver Canucks members about Bobby Lu’s play in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. The veteran netminder was great during the regular season, winning 38 games and sporting a career low 2.11 goals against average. In the first three rounds of the playoffs, Luongo was 12-6, with two shutouts and a 2.27 GAA. He led a fast and skilled Canucks team into the finals against a scrappier, underdog Boston squad bent on winning their first title in 39 years. Unfortunately for Vancouver, Luongo was Jekyll and Hyde between Boston and Van City. He allowed 17 goals against in three road games of the seven-game final, for a 8.05 GAA and .773 save percentage. He was better at home, at least until game 7, posting two shutouts in three games. The Bruins, though, would savage Luongo for three goals on just 20 shots as they won 4-0 and the Stanley Cup.
7. Rod Brind’Amour – 2002
The 2002 Carolina Hurricanes were a revelation, creeping into the playoff with 91 points as the lone representative from the old Southeast Division. They were a veteran team that relied on the contributions from geezers like Ron Francis (then 38), Glen Wesley (33), Martin Gelinas (31), Bret Hedican (31), Brind’Amour (31) and goalie Arturs Irbe (34). They took six games each to send New Jersey, then Montreal and then Toronto packing en route to facing the the very powerful Detroit Red Wings in the finals. Brind’Amour was his usual reliable self in the regular season (his 13th in the NHL), scoring 55 points in 81 games. Through the first 18 games of the playoffs, he was par for the course, scoring three goals and adding eight assists. Brind’Amour faltered against the Wings when the ‘Canes needed his scoring, recording just one goal and logging a -3 in five games as Carolina lost 4-1.
6. Ilya Kovalchuk – 2012
When the spotlight shone brightest on superstar Ilya Kovalchuk in 2012, he shrank like a vampire. During the 2011-12 regular season, Kovalchuk had a bit of a renaissance, scoring his most goals (37) and points (83) in four seasons. The former first overall pick of the Atlanta Thrashers, in his first long foray into the playoffs, was fairly brilliant, scoring seven goals and 11 assists in 17 games. In the finals, the Devils, who finished with 102 points in the regular season, were the favorites against the Los Angeles Kings, who scraped in with 95 points (least in the Western Conference). The Kings, however, would get the best of the Devils, limiting sniper Kovalchuk to just one goal (no assists) as they won their first Stanley Cup in six games. Putting a finer point on Kovalchuk’s disappointing first and only Stanley Cup final, his goal was an inconsequential empty netter.
5. Ed Belfour – 1992
He is enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but Ed Belfour’s performance in the 1992 Stanley Cup finals for Chicago resides somewhere in the Hall of Shame. Eddie the Eagle had a fairly average season with the Blackhawks in 1991-92, going 21-18-10 with a 2.70 goals against average. Like all good players, though, he elevated his play in the post-season, helping Chicago beat St. Louis 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs and then back-to-back series sweeps of Detroit and Edmonton. While he wasn’t unbeatable, he did post a shutout and a GAA of 2.00 in the two sweeps. His mojo took a licking against the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins as they swept aside Chicago in four straight to win their second of back-to-back titles. Belfour was lit up for 11 goals on 88 shots (.875 save percentage) and he was yanked in favor of Dominik Hasek in game 4 after surrendering four goals on 25 shots in a 6-5 series-ending defeat.
4. Joe Nieuwendyk – 2000
We are getting down to the nitty gritty of embarrassing Stanley Cup finals performances, in that the following four players are all in the Hall of Fame and did great things throughout their career. In 1999-2000, Joe Nieuwendyk was coming off a Stanley Cup victory with the Dallas Stars, scoring 11 goals and 10 assists in 23 games to win the Conn Smythe trophy. The Stars breezed through the first two rounds of the 2000 playoffs, beating both Edmonton and San Jose by counts of 4-1. They needed seven to dispatch the pesky Colorado Avalanche to set up a second consecutive final appearance with New Jersey. Nieuwendyk, who overcame an injury that season, was decent through the first 17 playoff games, scoring nine points (six goals) and registering a +2. But, the Devils stymied him in the finals as he put up a lone goal and was a miserable -4.
3. Eric Lindros – 1997
The 1997 Stanley Cup finals were supposed to be an anointment of sorts for “the Next One”, Eric Lindros. The Big E was coming into his own as a leader during the 1996-97 season, his fifth in the league. He scored 79 points in just 52 games that year and was instrumental in getting the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in 10 years, with an eye to claiming their first Cup in 22 seasons. As the pivotal member of the “Legion of Doom” with John LeClair and Mikael Renberg, the Flyers looked to be a stern test for the veteran Detroit Red Wings. Lindros was spectacular in the lead-up to the finals, scoring 11 goals and 12 assists in just 15 games. The Hockey Gods wouldn’t smile on Lindros in the finals, as Detroit limited the future Hall of Famer to just one goal and two assists in a four-game sweep. Lindros never made it past the first round again before retiring in 2007.
2. Jari Kurri – 1993
For years, Jari Kurri was a warrior in the playoffs, scoring 93 goals and adding 112 assists in just 150 playoff games before the 1992-93 season with the Los Angeles Kings. He won five Stanley Cups with the Oilers and led the playoffs in goal scoring four times. In 1992-93, Kurri’s second with Wayne Gretzky and the Kings, a veteran-laden Los Angeles squad battled hard to make it to the finals, beating Calgary 4-2, then Vancouver by the same count and finally a tough Toronto Maple Leafs team in seven games. Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens awaited, but the Kings believed they had magic in Gretzky and Kurri, who was still just 32 and had scored eight goals and eight assists in 19 games. Yet, unlike the Great One, who was also 32 at the time, Kurri was near invisible in a five-game loss to the Habs, scoring just once (in a game 1 win) and recording zero assists.
1. Steve Yzerman – 1995
Before he could become great and lead the Detroit Red Wings to the Promised Land, Stevie Y had to overcome adversity. Known as a clutch player throughout most of his career, a younger Steve Yzerman led the 1994-95 Red Wings to their first Stanley Cup finals since 1966 (they lost to Montreal that year). Already a superstar, Yzerman played 47 of 48 games in a lockout shortened campaign, putting up 12 goals and 26 assists. The Red Wings breezed through the first three rounds of the playoffs, needing only two games over the minimum to meet New Jersey in the finals. Yzerman, who missed three of the first 14 playoff games, scored 11 points in those 11 games, nonetheless. The Devils and their trap system proved too much for Detroit and Stevie Y, as they swept the Wings and held Yzerman to just a goal in those four games. He would surely redeem himself later.