Is the Source of Pekka Rinne’s Slump A Mask Design?

Goaltenders are the rarest breed in the hockey world. Though many hockey players have a certain routine or superstition, goaltenders seem to be tied to with those two aspects of the game the most.

Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne is up there as one of the most superstitious players in the NHL, even if he won’t admit it. The odd superstition that seems to linger around Rinne is his equipment.

Pekka Rinne Nashville Predators Mask
Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne has seen little success in his newest mask. (Photo credit DaveArt.com)

On February 26, Rinne sported a new mask from David Gunnarsson of DaveArt in a 4-2 loss against the Minnesota Wild, in which he gave up 3 goals on 29 shots. Since wearing the new mask, the Vezina and Hart contender has not looked like he deserves it. He is 0-4-0, given up 14 goals and has a .882 save percentage.

Entering the contest against Minnesota, Rinne was 35-9-3 with a 2.03 goals against average and .930 save %. The statistical difference is staggering, which makes one believe Rinne should revert to his old helmet.

Pekka Rinne Predators
Pekka Rinne wearing the “lucky” mask and pads. (Don McPeak-US PRESSWIRE)

Believing a piece of equipment, nevertheless a design, can make such a difference seems a little far-fetched, but Rinne has proven that it is a factor. Twice in his career with the Predators, Rinne has made an equipment switch that produced positive results.

Returning from a good 2010-11 campaign, which consisted of a 33-22-9 record, 2.12 GAA and .930 save %, worthy of a being a Vezina finalist, Rinne began the 2011-12 season with a new mask design, as every goalie does throughout the League. The Finn was not looking his normal self, until he decided to wear the mask he wore last year in a December 27, 2011 game against the Wild. Prior to the switch, he was 16-10-4 with a 2.70 GAA and .916 save % — definitely not Rinne-esque.

From Section303.com:

[Rinne] elected to wear his 2010-11 mask in tonight’s contest against the Wild. The result? A 34 save performance and a shootout victory.

Rinne contends he’s not superstitious, however.

“The other one is just getting a little smelly,” he said with a smile. “It feels comfortable, I’ve had a good last year in it but I’m not too superstitious so it’s not that big of a deal.”

His 34 saves are the  most Rinne has made since the 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues 11 nights ago.

After the switch, he went 27-8-4 and led the Predators to the second round for the second consecutive year.

The improvement was stunning.

More recently, in the shortened 2012-13 season, Rinne saw issue with the pads he was wearing. Like helmets, goalies always wear new pads to start the year. He surprisingly dumped Reebok’s equipment, which he’s worn since playing in North America, for the new CCM pads. While wearing CCM’s, he was winless in the opening five games of the year. After going back to the Reebok Premier 4’s he wore last season, he went 15-14-5.

Though the numbers were not drastically better, it shows how superstitious Rinne is.

Knowing this, it makes sense to believe Rinne should wear the helmet he began this season with. Being in a five game losing streak, the Predators surely need him to be 100% mentally and physically entering the postseason.

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Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter@FittsTHW.